GREELEY, CO — On July 17, 2008, 18-year-old transgender woman Angie Zapata was found beaten to death at her apartment in Greeley, Colorado, by two of her sisters. Zapata’s injuries were horrific: Her face was disfigured, her forehead appeared to be crushed in, and paramedics who responded to the scene immediately knew that she was beyond help.
The case was the story of a beautiful, confident young woman, with a supportive and loving family, who had her whole life ahead of her — until she crossed paths with the wrong man. It also made national headlines, as it was the first time that a state hate-crime statute resulted in a conviction for a transgender person’s murder.
Zapata was born on August 5, 1989, in Brighton, Colorado. She was one of six siblings, and grew up in a loving environment. From an early age, Zapata was feminine and felt an attraction to boys. Zapata disclosed her female gender identity to family and close friends, and adopted the nickname “Angie” when presenting as female. At the age of 16, she began living full-time as a woman. Zapata’s family members — which included three sisters and a gay older brother — were supportive, although her mother worried for her safety.
“Angie was a fun loving, caring, very happy, and outgoing person who loved and adored her family and friends. Since she was only a teenager, everything in life was exciting,” her friend Kitty DeLeon, who is also transgender and acted as a mentor to Zapata, told CrimeFeed.
Related: The Chapel Hill Shootings: Hate Crime Or The Result Of A Parking Space Dispute?
“Angie was excited to live life as a young woman, to drive, to have her own apartment, and hang out with all her fun friends. Even something as simple as putting on makeup and a girl’s outfit was wondrous to her. She was a lot like every other 18-year-old teenage girl, excited for whatever the future had in store for her.”
Zapata was meticulous about her appearance, and took up to two and a half hours to blow-dry her long locks. She loved hanging out with her family and friends, going out, and dancing at the gay club Tracks. Everywhere she went, the beautiful Angie attracted male attention. “We loved to take her out, because she got so much attention,” her sister Monica told the New York Times. “I couldn’t even take her to Walmart, because people would turn around. Everybody knew Angie.”
DeLeon, who Zapata looked up to as a mentor, said that she advised her to always tell the truth about who she was, and to be careful. She told Zapata that if she was going to live as a woman, it had to be 24/7 — at school, at work, “even if you’re just going to Walmart, you have to be dressed as female.”
DeLeon said that she offered to become Zapata’s “dragmother,” and take her under her wing in order to give her advice. When it came to dating, DeLeon said that she advised her friend to be honest.
“I was careful to tell her, that when it came to dating, I didn’t ever want her to lie to any man. I stressed how important it was to be upfront. I let her know lying could cause her to put herself in a situation that could be dangerous, even fatal. She was not surprised to learn that there were men that actually prefer women like her and I. I had met them at clubs, and there is dating websites, which she already knew.”
Angie’s sister Monica shared that “One time she came home crying saying, ‘Why, Monica, why won’t people accept me?’ All my sister wanted was somebody who would take her down the street and be proud of who she was.”
Zapata was working at a Good Times hamburger restaurant, but had dreams of becoming a cosmetologist. She ended up leaving the restaurant, though, and moved back in with her sister Monica mother to help babysit her kids. Six months later, Zapata got her own apartment in Greeley.
Then came the fateful meeting with Allen Andrade, an unemployed 31-year-old whom she had met on the mobile social-networking website MocoSpace. On what would be three days before her murder, she had borrowed her mother’s car to pick him up. A neighbor told police that he had later seen Zapata being let into her own apartment by an unidentified person, and that she appeared to be “happy.”
After finding her body in such a terrible state, police were desperate to determine what had gone so wrong between the couple to incite such brutal violence.Related: Marine Found Guilty Of Strangling Transgender Woman, Dunking Head In Toilet After Hotel Tryst
At the crime scene, Zapata’s purse, keys and vehicle were missing. Police carefully collected evidence, including cigarettes and a sex toy, that had been left behind. Investigators did not find an obvious murder weapon, which led them to believe that the killer — or killers — had locked the door themselves and taken it with them.
Andrade was later arrested driving Zapata’s car. He also had her purse, keys, and credit cards with him.
According to Andrade, they spent nearly three days together and had a sexual encounter. Prosecutors stated that Andrade told police Zapata would perform oral sex on him, but refused to let him touch her intimately. The couple also slept separately in different rooms.
He claimed that he began to suspect that Zapata was transgender, a fact he confirmed when he grabbed her crotch. When he confronted her about her gender identity, Zapata retorted, “I am all woman.” After that, he started beating her — first with his fists and then with a fire extinguisher — until she was dead.
In the arrest affidavit, Andrade said he thought he had “killed it” — not her, or him — before leaving in Zapata’s car.
During the trial, which began on April 16, 2009, the jury reportedly heard jailhouse conversations in which Andrade told a girlfriend that “gay things must die.” He was tried and convicted of first-degree murder and committing a hate crime due to the fact that he killed Zapata after learning that she was transgender.Related: SC Drag Queen Brandon James Stopped By Cops After RuPaul Party — We Loved What Happened Next
On April 22, 2009, Andrade was found guilty of first-degree murder, hate crimes, aggravated motor-vehicle theft, and identity theft. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. During his sentencing, the judge took Andrade’s six prior felony convictions into account. Currently, he is incarcerated at Sterling Correctional Facility.
In 2016, Zapata’s family was dealt another heartbreaking blow when her sister Monica was killed in a car accident.
DeLeon said that she still mourns the friend who made a positive impact on so many people.
“If there’s anything that Angie and my mother’s deaths have taught me, it’s that we should all respect one another. Life is short and can be unpredictable. Tomorrow is not promised. In this lifetime, if you are going to make a difference, make a positive difference — one that will make everyone remember what a beautiful person you were when you graced this lovely Earth with your beautiful presence — just like Angie did!“
She added: “It doesn’t matter what you look like, the color of your skin, or what anyone says to discourage you, you must be honest with the world and true to yourself if you’re going to make it through this adventure we call life.”
If you or someone you know has experienced violence as a member of the LGBTQ community, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs encourages you to seek help at ncavp.org.
To learn more about this case, watch the “Lost Angel” episode of Investigation Discovery’s Murder Calls on ID GO now!
Main photo: Angie Zapata [Investigation Discovery]