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Mystery surrounds murder of gay immigrant in San Francisco

Saturday, July 9, 2011
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In a small rental flat in the Tenderloin on San Francisco’s Turk street, a grieving brother flips through a photo album with tears running down his face as he tells a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle via a translator that there was one word that best described his murdered younger brother, Freddy Canul-Arguello – “alegre,” the Spanish word for “happy.”

Freddy Canul-Arguello

The brothers had moved to San Francisco four years ago from their native Mexico.

The brothers lived together and shared narrow, blue metal bunk beds. Two stuffed tigers sat on Freddy Canul-Arguello’s still neatly-made top bunk, under the shelf of DVDs that he used to stay up late watching.

Ivan Canul-Arguello spoke in Spanish as he flipped through a photo album full of his brother’s smiles. He paused on photos of Freddy celebrating his 22nd birthday, posing with his large extended family.

“He was happy, very happy,” Ivan said through a translator.

“All the time, happy.”

He pulled up more pictures from a drawer, including one of his brother in drag. The Freddy in this photo appears sassy and full of attitude, pouting at the camera and drawing the attention away from the two men with whom he poses.

Freddy Canul-Arguello was open about his sexuality, and came to San Francisco from the Yucatan region in Mexico four years ago because he heard of the city’s gay-friendly reputation, his brother said.

On Friday, June 10, San Francisco firefighters, responding to a reported brush fire incident in Buena Vista Park in the city’s famed Haight district, made the grisly discovery of Freddy’s corpse, burned beyond recognition in an nearby dumpster.

Veteran San Francisco homicide detective, Inspector Robert Velarde, said in an interview Tuesday, that detectives don’t have any leads, and they “haven’t received one phone call.”

He said he couldn’t say anything about how Freddy Canul-Arguello had died, or about the circumstances that had led up to his death. But he added that homicide investigators are asking for the public’s help in finding who killed Freddy.

Freddy was last seen alive at 3 a.m. Friday, June 10 in the area of 18th and Castro streets in the Castro, only a few hours before his body was discovered by firefighters.

Freddy’s friends and even his grieving family are wondering if Freddy’s openness about his sexuality may have triggered the killing. One friend, Javier Perez, 29, who described himself as Freddy’s best friend, said that Freddy had two passions, cooking which was his profession and dancing in drag. Now he says he’s traumatized by his friend’s death and is scared to go out.

Freddy’s brother spoke about attending City’s LGBTQ Pride celebration together in years past, but Ivan didn’t go this year “because my brother’s not here,” he said.

He told the Chronicle that when the investigation is over, he plans to return to Mexico. He had planned on staying in the Bay Area longer, but he must now think of his father and mother, who was so upset when she heard what had happened to her son that she spent three days in the hospital.

“I think people are crazy to hate gays,” he said.

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