A legal battle is brewing over the estate of a firefighter killed in the line of duty because his family claims his wife wasn't always a woman and the marriage wasn't real, KPRC Local 2 reported Monday.
"I am appalled and hurt most for my husband's memory," said Nikki Araguz.
Capt. Thomas Araguz III died while battling a massive egg farm blaze in Wharton County on July 3.
Thomas Araguz's family is fighting to keep Nikki Araguz from receiving any death benefits, arguing the firefighter recently found out his bride of two years was born a man.
"They are extremely distraught. They were distraught in April when Thomas found out; put on top of that they have lost their son," attorney Chad Ellis said.
Ellis is representing Thomas Araguz's parents. He said Thomas and Nikki Araguz separated after he learned her history.
"Immediately after this, when he goes and confides to his close friends and relatives, they describe his reaction as being horrified and embarrassed," said Ellis.
According to the lawsuit, Thomas Araguz learned during a custody battle with his ex-wife last spring that Nikki Araguz, whom he married in August 2008, was allegedly born as Justin Graham Purdue.
While the documents don't list when Nikki Araguz may have undergone a sex change operation, the suit claims she changed her name in 1996 to Nikki Paige Purdue.
"He didn't know, and Nikki said that in her deposition ... and she said under oath he didn't," said Ellis.
Thomas Araguz's family wants all of the death benefits to go to the two sons that Araguz had with his ex-wife, Heather Delgado.
Delgado's attorney, who has also filed suit, argued that under Texas law Nikki Araguz has no right to any benefits because the couple's marriage is not valid.
"In Texas, a same-sex marriage is not valid even after a person that is male gets a sex change," said Frank Mann III, Delgado's lawyer.
Nikki Araguz said Thomas Araguz knew everything about her.
"My husband knew the truth," she said. "The whole truth about my health and medical situation."
Nikki Araguz said she feels she shouldn't have to prove herself or be forced to defend her marriage.
"I am absolutely 100 percent female," she said. "Shame on this people for trying to defile our marriage and the love Thomas and I share."
A hearing has been set for 9 a.m. Friday.