New book attempts to rewrite the history of Matthew Shepard’s life and death

A freelance television producer and writer is claiming that the events leading to the murder of 21-year-old University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard in October of 1998 are substantially incorrect.

Matthew, who was openly gay, was attacked on the night of Oct. 6, 1998 near Laramie, Wyo. He was tortured, tied to a fence and left to die. He spent five days in a coma while the world held vigil, and died October 12, 1998 in a hospital in Fort Collins, Colo.

Matthew Shepard
Matthew Shepard

Matthew was targeted because he was gay, and his murder sparked renewed efforts to pass federal hate crimes legislation that included sexual orientation and gender identity.

Now, in a new book, to be released next month, author Steven Jiminez alleges that Matthew was not the victim of an anti-gay hate crime, but was murdered in a lover’s quarrel with one of his convicted killers who was allegedly involved with Matthew in Laramie’s underground methamphetamine drug scene.

Jimenez, who is also openly gay, alleges that in the course of his 13-year research project into the circumstances regarding Matthew’s murder, anti-gay hatred may have only played a smaller role due to his claim that Aaron McKinney, who was convicted of murdering Matthew, was bisexual.

In “The Book of Matt: The Truth About the Murder of Matthew Shepherd,” Jimenez claims that Matthew and McKinney were both dealing and using methamphetamine and, in addition to being business rivals within that venture, had a sexual relationship.

Jimenez’ account of Matthew’s life and murder differs sharply from court testimony, information compiled in hundreds of interviews conducted with inhabitants of Laramie by New York’s Tectonic Theatre Project for the highly acclaimed play “The Laramie Project,” and from published news reports in the aftermath of the murder.

In a 2009 interview at a Virginia Prison where he is serving his sentence, McKinney told Tectonic theatre company member Greg Pierotti that “Matt Shepard needed killing.”

“The night I did it, I did have hatred for homosexuals,” said McKinney.

According to Pierotti, McKinney told him that initial motive was robbery. But he targeted Shepard, he said, because “he was obviously gay. That played a part. His weakness. His frailty.”

The Matthew Shepard Foundation, founded by Matthew’s parents Dennis and Judy Shepard, and which works to combat anti-LGBT hate crimes and discrimination through education and outreach, has denounced Jimenez’ book.

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“Attempts now to rewrite the story of this hate crime appear to be based on untrustworthy sources, factual errors, rumors and innuendo rather than the actual evidence gathered by law enforcement and presented in a court of law,” said Jason Marsden, Executive Director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, in a statement to LGBTQ Nation.

Marsden said the Foundation would not respond to “innuendo, rumor or conspiracy theories.”

“We remain committed to honoring Matthew’s memory, and refuse to be intimidated by those who seek to tarnish it,” said Marsden.

Jimenez’ book is due to be released October 1.

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