Shortly afterwards Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney arrived. The three men chatted briefly before leaving the bar and getting in a truck belonging to McKinney’s father.
In the truck Matthew was robbed of his keys, wallet and shoes and beaten repeatedly by one or both of the men. He was then taken from the truck, pistol whipped up to 18 times on the head, and kicked between the legs. Matthew was tied to a fence, set on fire, and left unconscious.
5 days later, Matthew died of his injuries. The two men responsible were found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Matthew’s death became a cause celebre and precipitated an international backlash. Many good things resulted for the gay community in the USA. Now, though, an award-winning journalist, Stephen Jimene, has published ‘The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths about the Murder of Matthew Shepard’. This tells a very different story. Jimenez has been vehemently attacked as a revisionist and, although an openly gay man, labelled a homophobe.
13 years ago Jimenez started out researching the murder for a screenplay. Like everyone else, he was convinced Shepard had been the subject of a hate crime against gays. The more he researched, the more he realised the truth of that night was very different, that Matthew’s tragedy began long before the night he was killed.
By the time he enrolled at Laramie he [Matthew] spoke three languages and had aspirations to be a human-rights advocate. Somewhere along the line, however, Matthew fell from being a grade-A student to a drug-addicted prostitute who diced with danger. He suffered periods of depression, possibly as a result of being gang raped a few years earlier while on holiday in Morocco. But this is not the Matthew Shepard who became a celebrated figure for the gay-rights movement in America . . .
Jimenez found that Matthew was addicted to and dealing crystal meth and had dabbled in heroin. He also took significant sexual risks and was being pimped alongside Aaron McKinney, one of his killers, with whom he’d had occasional sexual encounters. He was HIV positive at the time of his death.
“This does not make the perfect poster boy for the gay-rights movement,” says Jimenez. “Which is a big part of the reason my book has been so trashed.”
Matthew’s drug abuse, and the fact that he knew one of his killers prior to the attack, was never explored in court. Neither was the rumour that the killers knew that he had access to a shipment of crystal meth with a street value of $10,000 which they wanted to steal . . .
I spoke to police officer Flint Waters, who has since retired from the police, having seen him praise 'The Book of Matt' on social media.
“I believe to this day that McKinney and Henderson were trying to find Matthew’s house so they could steal his drugs. It was fairly well known in the Laramie community that McKinney wouldn’t be one that was striking out of a sense of homophobia. Some of the officers I worked with had caught him in a sexual act with another man, so it didn’t fit – none of that made any sense.”
The long article in today’s Guardian is well worth reading.
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/ ... ew-shepard