The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths About the Murder of Matthew Shepard

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Later, at trial, McKinney attempted to claim that Shepard had in fact made an advance on him at the bar, whispering a sexual proposition into his ear and then licking his lips suggestively.

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The humiliation he felt at the advance, he claimed, spurred a violent rage that made him want to beat Shepard. The judge, however, struck down this testimony. Whatever the sequence of events and motivations, the three men wound up southeast of town in a remote area. McKinney and Henderson robbed Shepard and tied him up with rope. As Shepard begged for his life, McKinney proceeded to beat him severely, ultimately pulling out a gun and pistol-whipping him about the head.

Remembering Matthew Shepard’s Legacy in His Own Backyard

They left him to die, in the freezing night air, leaned up against a wooden rail fence. It was in that pose that two mountain bikers found him, some 12 hours later, at first thinking he was a "scarecrow" someone had propped up on the fence. Their original description created a popular image of Shepard strung up on the fence like a crucified martyr, though in fact his arms were tied behind him and he was seated on the ground.

He was barely alive, and lingered for another five days at the Laramie hospital before he finally died of his injuries. The lead investigator in the case, a detective named Rob DeBree, has repudiated the crystal meth theory. Debree said the attempt by McKinney's defense team to paint him as being under the influence of crystal meth had no evidence to support it: There was no evidence, he said, of recent drug use "found in the search of their residences. There was no evidence in the truck.

Andrea Peyser

From everything we were able to investigate, the last time they would have done meth would have been up to two to three weeks previous to that night. What the defense attempted to do was a bluff. We do not respond to innuendo, rumor or conspiracy theories. Comments, suggestions or tips?


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Join the organization that fights hate and extremism on a daily basis: In the courts. Twenty years after Shepard's death, I was completely unaware that there was any question about why Shepherd was killed until just a few weeks ago, when I came across a article in the Guardian about The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths about the Murder of Matthew Shepard , by investigative journalist Stephen Jimenez. Jimenez, who himself is gay, spent 13 years investigating Shepard's death, and his conclusion came as the kind of shock that makes you question if anything you believe is really true: Matthew Shepard was not killed because he was gay; he was killed over a large amount of crystal meth.


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Jimenez found that Matthew was addicted to and dealing crystal meth and had dabbled in heroin. He was HIV positive at the time of his death. On the evening of October 6, , according to Jimenez, Shepard went to a gay-friendly Laramie bar called the Fireside, where it was karaoke night. The three talked for a bit before leaving the bar in McKinney's father's truck. It was in the truck that the men robbed Shepard of his wallet and keys as well as his shoes and began to beat him without mercy. After the two men left Shepard hanging on a fence, where he was discovered the next day by a student out riding his bike, McKinney and Henderson headed towards Shepard's home, but on the way there they ran into two other young men who were out slashing tires and got in a fight.

Soon after McKinney hit one of them, Emiliano Morales, on the head with the same gun he'd used to beat Shepard, police officer Flint Waters arrived on the scene and arrested them. None of that made any sense. That's right: One of Shepard's killers was queer. Jimenez found through his reporting that McKinney had been Shepard's lover. Sure, it's possible that he had some internalized homophobia, but the narrative that Shepard was killed by bigot rednecks who targeted him for being gay is not, according to Jimenez, actually true. They killed him over meth. What's more, Jimenez argues that Laramie wasn't a hotbed of idiocy and homophobia either.

It was a college town, home to the University of Wyoming. And like most college towns, it was, and is, quite liberal and even gay-friendly. That truth got lost as the story spread, and Laramie became a parody of white trash ignorance and bigotry.

“When the Legend Becomes the Truth”: The Case of Matthew Shepard - Los Angeles Review of Books

After Shepard's body was found, a couple of men in the local gay community contacted the press as well as gay rights groups, who connected the murder to the state legislature's recent failure to pass hate crime legislation. The story that this was a hate crime began to spread, and in the days immediately following his death, a vigil was held for Shepard on the steps of the U. Celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres, Ted Kennedy, Barbra Streisand, Elton John, and Madonna all got involved, and his funeral was attended by over 1, people, with many of Shepard's friends dressed as angels.

Stephen Jimenez's book was not universally well-received by the gay community or the Matthew Shepard Foundation, which maintain that his murder was fueled by anti-gay bias. What's more, plenty of people, especially gay people, thought this book would hurt the cause, and they blamed Stephen Jimenez. So why write this book, especially when it upended a narrative nearly everyone had accepted as fact?

Book TV: Stephen Jimenez, "The Book of Matt"

Ultimately, however, neither Jimenez's book nor, perhaps, the truth would change Shepard's place in the national imagination. He's still largely thought of as the young man who was killed just for being gay. And maybe that's a good thing. Things did, in fact, change for the gay community after Matthew Shepard's murder, and today, most gay people aren't just protected by hate crime legislation, we have most but not all of the same rights as everyone else.

It seems fair to connect those victories, at least in part, with the story of Matthew Shepard. And so even if he was more the victim of a drug robbery than a hate crime, his death still helped push forward the fight for gay rights. Whatever the truth, the National Cathedral seems like a fitting resting place. Still, finding out that Matthew Shepard was likely not the victim of a hate crime is, of course, a shock.


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  5. I felt similarly when I found out that the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando wasn't motivated by homophobia either , but by U. The shooter didn't know Pulse was a gay club.