The Untold Truth Of The Matthew Shepard Story


I used to support the gays. In fact, when I was in high school and college, I was outspoken about being all for the LGB community. My high school’s drama club put on a production of The Laramie Project, a play about a boy named Matthew Shepard who was brutally murdered for being gay. It was an emotionally impactful story. The play opened a national conversation about why people should be able to be gay without being killed in America. After seeing this production, I couldn’t understand how any human being could not want legislation to be pushed forward to protect these people from hate crimes simply because of an attribute like being gay. Looking back on this now, I recognize this was likely a propagandist effort to prompt us to talk about gay and lesbian issues. As it turns out, the story in the play is not the whole story.

The actual happenings of the event occurred on October 6, 1998. Matthew Shepard went to Fireside Bar in Laramie, Wyoming, a local gay-friendly hangout. Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney arrived shortly thereafter, and the three men hung out before leaving in McKinney’s father’s truck. After leaving together, Shepard was robbed, beaten, pistol whipped, tied to a fence, and set on fire. Henderson and McKinney left him unconscious, and 15 hours later, a student riding his bike found Shepard, barely alive, with tear streaked cheeks. Shepard did not survive. 

There was much progress for gay rights because of the Matthew Shepard story. Once the story came out, politicians and celebrities pledged their support to combat anti-gay hate crimes, which, at the time, didn’t even exist. It was President Obama who signed the Matthew Shepard Act in 2009, a law which defined attacks motivated by victim identity as hate crimes. The Shepard family, his devastated parents, became campaigners for gay rights. Numerous more dramas, books, and documentaries followed, telling Matthew Shepard’s story. 

While the events of Shepard’s murder are true, there was more to the story. We were told that he was killed simply because he was gay. That was the media’s spin — and it was quite the spin. In 2013, Steven Jimenez, an award-winning writer and TV producer, published a book titled “The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths About the Murder of Matthew Shepard.” Jimenez had spent years investigating Shepard’s murder, initially believing it to be a story about homophobia like everyone else. What he found out was, Matthew was addicted to and dealing crystal meth and had dabbled in heroin. He had also been pimped as a prostitute alongside Aaron McKinney, one of his convicted killers, who he had occasional sexual encounters with. And he was HIV positive at the time of his death. Shepard’s killers also apparently knew he had access to a shipment of crystal meth with a street value of $10,000, which they wanted to steal. After Henderson and McKinney left Shepard tied to the fence, they headed to his home but encountered two young Hispanic men, Emiliano Morales and Jeremy Herrera, who were slashing tires (just for fun). The four got into a fight, McKinney cracked Morales’ head open, and the police arrived on the scene. That is the full story.

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Shepard came from an affluent family, spent part of his childhood in Saudi Arabia, spoke three languages, and was a straight-A student when he enrolled at Laramie. Yet somewhere along the line, he got mixed up in drugs, always looking for his next high, and there is nothing a drug addict won’t do to get that next high. But this new information did not help make the perfect poster boy for the gay rights movement — part of the reason why the book was trashed. Obviously, McKinney wouldn’t have attacked Shepard because he was homophobic. But Shepard’s narrative had already been decided. He was a celebrated figure in the public eye, so they went with the story of a hunky dory town in the middle of America that wanted him dead. 

This is just another example of why we do not let facts get in the way of an emotional story in America — and a story to further our own causes. It is also an example of how easily we are brainwashed into believing whatever the media want us to believe. We want to think the media are committed to telling us the truth, but what they really do is intentionally remove the truth and sell us a lie. 


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