Tony Araujo offers witness testimony on behalf of his daughter, Christina Araujo, at right. [ David Adlerstein | The Times ]
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Araujo sentenced to 25 years

Following an emotional hearing Friday afternoon in the Apalachicola courthouse, in which convicted murderer Christina Araujo broke down in tears as she expressed remorse for the killing, Circuit Judge Jonathan Sjostrom handed down a 25-year sentence.

With about five-and-a-half years of credit for time served, both in the Franklin and Liberty county jails since the April 2018 murder, Araujo, 44, will likely not see freedom until she is in her early 60s.

Describing the bludgeoning of 31-year-old Aileen Seiden on April 23, 2018 in an Eastpoint motel room as a “torture death,” Sjostrom rejected a motion from Araujo’s attorneys, Scott Richardson, of West Palm Beach, and Henry Coxe, of Jacksonville, that he levy less than 20 and one-half years, the minimum the scoresheet guidelines called for.

Circuit Judge Jonathan Sjostrom reviews notes before issuing his ruling. [ David Adlerstein | The Times ]

Following a trial in April, Araujo’s original co-defendant in the homicide, Zachary Abell, 36, of North Miami Beach, was given a life sentence by Circuit Judge Frank Allman.

In contrast, Araujo pleaded guilty before Sjostrom in May 2023 to a similar charge of second-degree murder for having taken part in the beating and for assisting Abell in dumping the body at a cul-de-sac just east of the high school before the two drove back to South Florida, where they were later apprehended and extradited back to Franklin County.

She agreed to cooperate with prosecutors and testify against Abell. Her sentencing was then handled by Sjostrom, who had accepted her original guilty plea.

Richardson and Coxe argued Friday that Araujo’s willingness to testify, without any stipulated future sentence, was “substantial, voluntary and impactful” to prosecutor Jarred Patterson in making his case.

“She voluntarily agreed to cooperate and assist the state with prosecution,” said Richardson. “The prosecution put her on the stand and helped to resolve the case, and provide direct evidence. Had she not, it would have been a circumstantial case and if the verdict would have been the same, nobody knows.”

Prosecutor Jarred Patterson, left, talks with Henry Coxe, who served along with Scott Richardson as Christina Araujo’s attorney. [ David Adlerstein | The Times ]

Patterson agreed Araujo had been helpful, but questioned other assertions by Araujo’s attorneys, that the crime had been “unsophisticated,” defined by her attorneys as being a “sudden act of violence” (in which she) had no significant participation.”

“I don’t think the state can sit here with a straight face and argue her testimony did not provide assistance,” said Patterson. “As for unsophisticated, I don’t know what that means. I don’t know if a beating is unsophisticated.

“There was a massive effort to cover it up, to get away with it, to run off and hide and to not report it,” he said. “Those things show sophistication, at least in trying to avoid punishment.

“The state has never argued or intimated or tried to glean that this was not an act done in concert,” Patterson said. “The state has never argued that this wasn’t two people acting in concert.”

The hearing began with Seiden’s sister, Franceasca, appearing by Zoom from California, just as she had in the Abell sentencing.

“This is the last time the court will able to serve justice for Aileen and for my family,” said Seiden. “I hope to end this. I no longer have fight in me; I need to heal.”

Seiden, who helped to raise Aileen after both of their parents had passed away when she was 22 and her younger sister 14, said she did not believe Araujo was representing herself truthfully, and that she was “not OK” with anything short of a life sentence for the convicted murderer.

“She was behind it,” Seiden said. “She used the excuse of jealousy, making her (Aileen) so scared she was terrified. When my sister’s body was found it didn’t look like a body, it looked like junk.

Christina Araujo eyes her father as he testifies on her behalf. [ David Adlerstein | The Times ]

“She (Araujo) is not a human being,” said Seiden. “She is psychotic, she is angry and she is violent. She is what nightmares are made of. It’s enough to make anyone’s spine tingle.”

Seiden said when she heard for the first time in April the entire story, she was infuriated to learn “how violently  Christina and Zachary damaged her internal organs, how they stopped to get gas and dropped her off like she was an old tire.”

Seiden noted Araujo’s father was in law enforcement, and then went on to say that years earlier she had “got off with manslaughter, and then graduated to second degree murder.

“She has no remorse,” Seiden said. “She was hoping for a deal and she chose to blame it on her co- conspirator. This person, this creature, if let out will take a third life. Once a killer, always a killer

“She is a beast, just like the devil. Pure evil and pure hate,” Seiden said. “I’m wiped out fighting this. Please have mercy on me and on the memory of my sister. No matter what my sister Aileen did, she didn’t deserve any of this.”

In calculating Araujo’s scoresheet based on her criminal record, there was mention of a past misdemeanor, but no inclusion of any past manslaughter charge or conviction. “I saw nothing about that in the files,” said Sjostrom. “I don’t know what that’s about.”

The judge also personally apologized to Seiden for the more than six years the case has taken to adjudicate, a large segment of that time overseen by Sjostrom while he served in Franklin County.

“That’s my responsibility,” he said. “There’s nothing I can say to justify that. We have our reasons, due process of law, which restrains government and is hard on families. I sincerely, deeply apologize.”

Araujo’s father, Tony Araujo, a high-ranking officer in the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, spoke on behalf of him and his wife, Pam, who was also in the courtroom.

In sharing the statement which he submitted in writing to the court, he spoke from memory without notes, looking directly at the judge, It was only at the end that he turned to address his daughter directly, encouraging her that redemption for her life was possible.

“We are hopeful that from this moment on, her (Christina’s) purpose in life will be to help others no matter her circumstance. In, or out of prison, for the duration of her life, and in debt to the victim in this case, someone we never knew, but think of often. ” said Tony Araujo. ” Our hearts ache for the victim’s family, but it is miniscule in comparison to the pain the victim’s sister and family feel. Words seem hollow at moments like this, but our reality is that we are deeply saddened and forever burdened knowing our flesh and blood was a part of this event.

“We offer our deepest and most reverent condolences to Aileen’s sister, family and friends. Our daughter will have to pay her penance, and we trust the court will issue a just and fair sentence,” he said. “Our daughter is deeply remorseful over her actions, and will forever have to live with the memory of the unnatural death of someone she called friend. 

Tony Araujo also went into detail as to how he had reacted when Michael Picavet, the Davie man to whose home Abell and Araujo had fled, telephoned him in the early morning hours to ask to meet him. Araujo said he was not told by Picavet the reason for the urgency of the early morning visit, and that when he learned that his daughter had been involved in a homicide, “my knees buckled. My knees buckled.”

“As the record shows, I immediately put wheels in motion with the law enforcement agency I work at when I became aware of the suspected murder,” he said. “As a 42-year veteran of law enforcement, I knew how critical time and legal process was in apprehending the suspects in this case, one of them regrettably being my daughter. As heartbroken as I was, I did my duty without fail. “

Tony Araujo addresses the court, while defense attorney Scott Richardson listens at left. [ David Adlerstein | The Times ]

He said he gave a statement to the Palm Beach detective assigned the case, and then went home to tell his wife. “This by far was the most difficult and heartbreaking moment in my life. Although the information was preliminary, the reality of the moment was overwhelming and beyond the comprehension of a parent.,” he said. “We knew a young woman was dead, and our daughter was involved in some manner. The pain and devastation we felt, that we feel today, is beyond words. 

Araujo said that when he and his wife then met with Richardson, “we informed and reiterated to Scott and the legal team, that we wanted a vigorous discovery so the truth would be evident.”

He closed by saying that he “has been on the moral side of justice my entire life, as has my wife, and we do not waiver now. We did not, and will not abandon our daughter, as well as never abandoning the memory of the victim in this case. We will carry the burden this has brought to our graves, as I am certain Christina will.

“Redemption is a big word, too often used for window dressing,” said Tony Araujo. “We trust the judicial system, and have confidence a fair and just punishment will be given to Christina that considers all circumstances. A sentence, which leaves room for the redemption we all seek in our imperfect world. In or out of prison, we will support Christina on a path of redemption that is satisfactory to God, so that a simple life, of simple pleasures that are not offensive to God is the norm.”

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Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor


  1. Aileen seidens sister couldn’t have said it better!! PSYCHOTIC, BEAST, ONCE A KILLER, ALWAYS A KILLER! And her father has helped create the beast! He has covered up and cleaned up for her all her life, he is corrupt!! I have said it all along that they were railroading Zachary in hopes of getting her out of this one too! Zachary was black out drunk and Christina followed through with her plan to get rid of Aileen! Zachary broke up with Christina and he and Aileen left town. With in a week she tracked them to Texas. On the ride back to Florida Christina found out that Aileen may be pregnant, that is why she brutality damaged her internal organs so, this was a jealous rage!! Christina is a big girl and strong and very capable of murder all by her self, she didn’t need help killing her! So don’t tell me she couldn’t have done it alone!! She didn’t help Zachary do anything! Zachary helped her with putting her in the car and disposed of her body, because he was as always being threatened with her father taking care of him if he didn’t do what she wanted!! And you can see daddy will do anything for his little girl!!
    Zachary lived in fear!! Christina is evil!! I hope that everyone can see the truth!! Especially you David so you can finally report the truth! Oh by the way, did you take bets at the office about the outcome like you did Zachary?

    1. Someone should get the FBI involved. Why was Christina wiped clean from the scene of the crime she committed ? She ran over and killed a homeless man in the middle of the night. That Michael Picavet guy probably knows when and where it happened. Zachary probably knows too. It shouldn’t be too hard to put the clues together.

      1. The FBI won’t care at all…
        If I, or Zachary knew the deets, we would have mentioned them. All we had was her bragging about it. Maybe somebody that is related to the person will come forward after seeing 48 Hours…
        I asked Zach an approximate and he said it was maybe early 2000, maybe 1997 area… that woulda done it or somebody coming forward that she has drugged (like she drugged me twice without my knowledge) that would have definitely taken her over the points. She had 358.4 points and Zach didn’t have too many more for a life sentence…

  2. “Moral side of justice” his entire life eh? How does tony factor that into stealing my $14,465 that I had in Christina’s business account to purchase a car from the auction? Y’all should make these jokers swear on the Bible when they speak to the court! TRUTH be told, I did not tell him that Christina was involved in a homicide, I flat out told him that Christina killed somebody!! And did I hear him try and say I started sobbing? Cuz that crap didn’t happen…wtf? And the “don’t take off or I will be sorry” wow! Now I know where Christina learned to lie! tony should hear the lies she was telling everybody about him! I have Zach’s mom, Kim’s notes that detail a few of the bad ones which track true to what Christina said to me and a few other people…
    God and redemption eh? Wow! The only redemption y’all are gonna get is if you make things right, make a deal with Jarred for Christina to not get charged with perjury and have her tell the truth that she was the one and only person that killed Aileen and that Zach should not be doing life! Make things right or you will never have any chance of God forgiving your sins! If Christina had told the truth I woulda been in her corner (even though she’s drugged me twice) through things for a passion provocation claim for her downward departure… what an interesting phrase…y’all know where I’m going with this don’t ya? If she doesn’t make things right, she will eventually get her downward departure!!
    And, I want my camera and SD card back!!! I think police just didn’t know how to take the video files off of it! It woulda taken a major long time to overwrite the files on it! That card had a lot of space on it!

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