At stake is a $600,000 estate for Nikki Araguz, the transgender wife of the late firefighter Thomas Araguz III, who died battling a blaze July 4. Now it’s Araguz’s who’s doing the battling: She’s fending off claims from her dead husband’s mother Simona Rodriguez Longoria and his ex-wife Heather Delgado, who don’t want some tranny getting Thomas’ cash.
“She’s all about publicity and it’s been all about her from the beginning,” Delgado said Thursday of Araguz. “And basically, she needs to understand it’s not only about her.” What’s Delgado’s horse in this fight? Her two children with Thomas — who Delgado insists are the rightful heirs to Thomas’ death benefits and other assets.
Delgado and her attorneys remain insistent that not only did Thomas not know Nikki is transgender (something Nikki vehemently disputes), but that she is a man, and the Texas constitution doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages, making Nikki’s claim to the state invalid. (Let’s remember that all marriages in Texas are illegal.) Delgado also claims Thomas and Nikki were separated when he died, another fact Nikki disputes.
But not helping Nikki’s case? An April court deposition where Thomas testifies he did not know about Nikki’s transgender status when they married. But Nikki says he intentionally lied to officials, as did she, in an attempt to secure custody of his two children — something Delgado was fighting, because she didn’t want Nikki around her children.
“Do you know that your wife was formerly a male?” asked Frank Mann III, a Bellaire attorney representing Thomas Araguz’s ex-wife and the mother of his children, according to the deposition transcript. “No,” Araguz responded.
“You have no knowledge of that?” Mann asked the firefighter. “I have no knowledge,” Araguz responded.
If their marriage is voided in Texas, all benefits will go to Thomas Araguz’s two sons from his previous marriage, said Chad Ellis, the attorney for Araguz’s mother. During another part of the inquiry focusing on Nikki Araguz, Mann asked her husband, “Would it surprise you if it said male on her birth certificate?”
“Yes,” Thomas Araguz responded.
“When did you first tell your husband about the fact that you had that prior name?” Mann asked Nikki Araguz during her deposition. “I don’t recall ever discussing that with him, to be honest with you,” she responded.
“That deposition is a lie,” Nikki said Monday. “At the time, Thomas and I thought it was in the best interest of our children to lie. They were the center of (our) lives.” In the eyes of the law, Nikki isn’t doing well on credibility.
In the end, Araguz’s survivors should be cared for. That means his two children (and not his ex-wife) and, if Nikki can prove she and Thomas were still together, she too should receive some of her late husband’s estate.