Matthew Shepard

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Matthew Shepard | Wikipedia | 14257

(This article has been updated.)

Matthew Shepard was a student at the University of Wyoming who was tortured and murdered near Laramie, Wyoming, in October 1998, age 21. He was attacked on the night of October 6–7, and died at Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado, on October 12 from severe head injuries.

On October 7, 1998, Shepard met Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson at the Fireside Lounge in Laramie, Wyoming and they offered him a ride home, but drove the car to a remote place where they robbed, pistol-whipped and tortured him, tied him to a fence and left him to die. Shepard was discovered 18 hours later by a cyclist, Aaron Kreifels, who found him in a coma with fractures to the back of his head and in front of his right ear, with severe brain-stem damage, which affected his body’s ability to regulate heart rate, body temperature, and other vital functions. There were small lacerations around his head, face, and neck. His injuries were deemed too severe for doctors to operate and he never regained consciousness.

A candlelight vigil is held for Matthew Shepard, New York, Oct. 19, 1998 | Evan Agostini/Getty Images | ABC News | 14258

Police arrested Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson shortly after the attack. The prosecution alleged that McKinney and Henderson pretended to be gay in order to gain Shepard’s trust to rob him. Henderson pleaded guilty on April 5, 1999, and agreed to testify against McKinney to avoid the death penalty, receiving two consecutive life sentences. McKinney was found guilty of felony murder by a jury and was sentenced to two consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole, after Shepard’s parents intervened.

The case led to a hate crime law known as The Matthew Shepard Act. On October 22, 2009, the act was passed by the Senate by a vote of 68-29. President Obama signed the measure into law on October 28, 2009.

In December 1998 Matthew’s mother Judy Shepard founded The Matthew Shepard Foundation to promote diversity and tolerance in youth organizations.

In October 2014 The Guardian published claims that the murder of Shepard was related to drugs and was not a gay hate crime.

Post first published 1 September 2011
Post updated 1 June 2013
Post updated 26 October 2014


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