The victim of a gruesome homicide last week in North Florida has been identified as the daughter of a well-known Miami family while one of the two murder suspects, it turns out, is the daughter of a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office colonel.
Miami resident Aileen Seiden, 30, died in the early morning of April 23 after she was severely beaten in a motel room near Apalachicola, according to investigators.
“It’s the most savage beating I’ve see in my 40 years in law enforcement,” Franklin County Sheriff A.J. “Tony” Smith said Monday. “She had broken ribs, broken limbs, a busted skull. Just horrific.”
And, Smith said, when suspects Christina Araujo, 38, and Zachary Abell, 30, allegedly dumped Seiden on the side of a deserted road while driving back to their home in North Miami, she could have still been saved.
“For all we know, she may have been alive when they dumped her,” Smith said, his voice cracking with emotion. “This is such a sad, sad thing.”
According to records, Araujo, Abell and Seiden live in the same apartment complex in North Miami and knew one another.
All three worked for Abell’s used-car company and car insurance business, Abell Automotive, and were returning from a trip to Texas when they stopped at the Sportsman Lodge in Eastpoint, a tiny town in the sparsely populated Big Bend region.
Whatever happened in the single room used by the trio, the sheriff says, could have been sex related. Abell and Araujo also have a history of drug arrests.
“It’s some kind of a love triangle,” Smith said. “We believe the male suspect may have been involved with both women. We know he’s abused both women in the past. He’s a real low-life, a thug.”
At one point, Abell and Araujo allegedly started beating and bludgeoning Seiden, possibly causing a massive amount of blood loss on one of the two beds in the room.
Eventually, the suspects allegedly carried Seiden to their car and set out to drive back to South Florida.
Seiden was dead by the time fishermen found her around 5 p.m. April 23.
Once back in South Florida, the suspects told a friend who knew Seiden that she was murdered. The unidentified friend notified authorities and, on April 24, Araujo and Abell were in custody in Broward County after a brief stakeout.
During the trip, Sheriff Smith says, Araujo was bitten by a spider and her wound got infected. She is being treated at a hospital in Fort Lauderdale while Abell is being held without bond.
They’re expected to be in the Franklin County lockup by the end of the week. Both are charged with second-degree murder, which indicates the belief by investigators that the attack wasn’t planned out, and with tampering with evidence.
Born and raised in Miami, Aileen Seiden was the youngest of four siblings born into the family of Frank M. Seiden, a powerful Miami businessman who sold furniture to high-profile beach hotels, cruise ships and Disney resorts.
Aileen's older sister, Deborah Seiden, spent more than 20 years as investigator for the Miami-Dade County state attorney's office.
"My heart is broken, I'm devastated," Deborah Seiden said. "Especially with the way she died. My sister didn't deserve this.
"I hope they (the suspects) get the max."
Aileen's other sister, Franceasca Seiden, started a movie production company in Miami called 3GZ Productions and was a promoter of local artists through the organization she founded, Miami Independent Thinkers.
Suspect Araujo is the daughter of Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office Colonel Tony Araujo, the agency's fourth-highest ranking official and the head of uniform operations.
Tony Araujo, 58, is a generally respected 36-year veteran of PBSO and a confidante of Sheriff Ric Bradshaw.
PBSO did not comment about the chief of patrol's ties with the alleged killers, except to say the colonel reported his daughter’s arrest to his superiors. He remains on active duty. Several members of the colonel's family work for PBSO, including two of his three adult children.
Since 1982, Col. Araujo has been promoted through the ranks of sergeant, lieutenant, captain, major and colonel September 12, 2017. He oversees law enforcement operations in the county's 17 districts.
His daughter’s background, and Abell’s, are not as sterling and involve drug use, according to records in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.
In 2013, Abell was arrested in Miami and charged with two counts of felony possession of a control substance for resale. He was found guilty and sentenced to four years probation.
In 2011, Abell was charged with misdemeanor battery but the Miami-Dade state attorney's office didn't prosecute the case.
In October 2016, Abell and Christina Araujo were arrested by Pembroke Pines Police in Broward County and charged with a misdemeanor possession of cannabis. They pleaded no contest and the judge withheld adjudication.
Victim Aileen Seiden had no criminal record.