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The Matthew Shepard Murder Revisited

The Matthew Shepard Murder Revisited

With October being LGBTQ History Month it allows the LGBTQ community to look back at historical events. And Matthew Shepard’s murder is one of them. This October marks nineteen years since the death of Matthew Shepard. In October 1998, Shepard, then 21, was a first-year college student at University of Wyoming. Under the guise of friendship, two men (Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson) lured Shepard from a tavern, tortured and bludgeoned him with their rifles, and then tethered him to a rough-hewn wooden fence to die – simply because he was gay.

That’s the story the world over has come to know. And, for the most part, the LGBTQ community is tenaciously sticking with it, resulting in numerous hagiographies on Shepard as the quintessential LGBTQ icon.

However, with all iconic narratives, apocryphal tales abound, too, resulting in queries concerning the truth. In 2013 investigative journalist Stephen Jimenez, himself gay, wrote “The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths About the Murder of Matthew Shepard,” upending a canonized narrative we all have grown familiarly comfortable with, irrespective of its sensationalized macabre details.
I had the pleasure of meeting Jimenez at his book reading at the Harvard Coop that October in 2013. I told Stephen, referring to his book, that perhaps it’s easier to kill the messenger (him) than hear his message.

Jimenez posits that Shepard’s murder had nothing to do with his sexual orientation but rather his involvement in the deadly underworld of Laramie’s crystal methamphetamine drug trafficking. Jimenez writes that Shepard was not only a user but he was a courier who had plans just before his death to drive a shipment of meth.

“I learned that Matthew had been a user of meth. And from everything I was able to trace, Matthew got into meth in a serious way, when he was living in Denver before he moved to Laramie,” Jimenez stated in an interview with Rachel Martin of “Weekend Edition” on NPR.

According to Jimenez Shepard’s murderers were not strangers—one is a bisexual crystal meth addict who not only knew Matthew, but partied, bought drugs from and had sex with Matthew. With this “new” information a more textured but troubling narrative emerges.
The response, however, to Jimenez’s book was a thunderous rebuke that he became an instant media sensation as a pariah, a Judas, and a colossal sellout. The response to Jimenez’s book was such that Aaron Hicklin’s article “Have We Got Matthew Shepard All Wrong?”