WHARTON COUNTY, Texas The first wife of the firefighter killed battling a rural Wharton County fire says the battle over his estate is tearing their family apart for a second time.
Heather Delgado doesn t believe her ex-husband s transgender widow should be entitled to his benefits.
For her to know the past that she had and to say she loved my boys, said a tearful Delgado on Thursday afternoon. For her just to lie about who she is, you know, she just needs to realize it affects everybody.
Delgado and fallen Wharton Volunteer Fire Department Captain Thomas Araguz III are the divorced parents of two young boys.Local, state, and federal survivor benefits of approximately $600,000 would be split evenly between the fire captain s children and whoever was his spouse at the time of his death.Nikki Araguz was the firefighter s current wife, although they were separated and divorce proceedings had begun.
The firefighter s mother, Simona Rodriguez Longoria, filed suit earlier this month to block Nikki Araguz from receiving any benefits because the family learned she was born Justin Perdue, a man.Citing Texas law that declares marriage between two men illegal, they are asking the marriage be declared invalid.
I miss my husband. I miss my best friend, and this is ridiculous, Nikki Araguz said last week. He knew before he was with me, through the process. She claimed again outside the Wharton County Courthouse last Friday that Thomas Araguz was aware from the start that she had undergone a sex change operation.
But the family of Thomas Araguz says he did not know and only found out during an April deposition over child custody arrangements.They say he was shocked, despondent, and embarrassed and that the discovery was the reason for the separation and a pending divorce from Nikki Araguz.
Last Friday, Judge Randy Clapp granted a temporary restraining order effectively locking up all governmental and union-related survivor benefit funds until the validity of the marriage can be determined.That means the firefighter s children are denied those benefits too until the case is decided.
We can t get the traditional help that would accompany the situation with a fallen hero, firefighter, policeman, paramedic due to the litigation with the challenging of the marriage, said Delgado s attorney Ed Burwell.
She s just created a big mess, said Delgado. And I just want it to go all the way so that me and my boys and Thomas family could just get on with our lives.
So attorneys have set up a donation fund for Delgado at a Wharton-area bank and also toured the site of the Maxim Egg Farm fire with insurance investigators.Although the ATF has ruled the fire accidental attorneys want to determine if product liability and other lawsuits are possible to seek additional financial compensation for Delgado and her children.