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07-20-2010, 03:58 PM
HOUSTON - The family of a deceased firefighter is battling in court to keep the woman he married away from his assets.

According to court records the firefighter's wife is a man.

Wharton firefighter Thomas Araguz died July 4 battling a four-alarm egg farm fire.

His mother is now finishing what she says her son started, having the marriage between Thomas and NIkki declared legally void.

"A certified copy of her birth certificate indicates she's a male and in Texas two men can't be married" says Frank Mann III.

Mann is the attorney representing Thomas Araguz's 7 and 9-year-old sons from a previous marriage.

In late April it was Mann who says he broke the news to Thomas Araguz that his wife was born a boy.

Mann presented the birth certificate and the request for a name change. The request was filed with the Harris County District Clerk's office in 1996.

In the document Justin Graham Purdue asks to have his named changed to Nikki Paige Purdue and says he had been living as Nikki for some time.

"(Nikki) admitted in an affidavit she was working toward getting a sex change operation and that she'd been living as a woman for over a year" says Mann.

Friends say Thomas felt scammed, was devastated and immediately moved out.

Two months later on July 4th, the firefighter died in that massive blaze.

Turns out the firefighter's wife has quite a criminal record as Justin and Nikki.

Charges include everything from felony theft to DUI.

The firefighters mother is trying to have the marriage between Thomas and Nikki declared legally void so all of his benefits will go to his 7 and 9-year-old sons from a previous marriage.

"The family's having a tough time. This has been a shocking revelation" says Mann. "They want him remembered as a father of two young, wonderful children and remembered as the hero that he is," says attorney Chad Ellis.

He's the lawyer representing Thomas Araguz's mother Simona Rodriguez Longoria.

Nikki Araguz even ran for Mayor of Wharton.

She was defeated in May after receiving less than half the votes.

Messages to reach Nikki Araguz in response to the court filings went unanswered.