Authorities consider Matthew Shepard’s murder to be a hate crime because it was believed he was targeted for attack because he was gay. Court testimony also appears to support this assertion. Nonetheless, a new book alleges that Matthew was not killed over his sexual preference, but is dead because of a methamphetamine deal gone wrong, sparking outrage from many, according to The Washington Times.
Matthew, 21, was murdered Oct. 7, 1998, in Laramie, Wyoming after accepting a ride from two men he met in a bar. According to trial testimony, the men – Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson – became enraged when Shepard made sexual advances toward them.
The Times reports that award-winning gay author, Stephen Jimenez, who spent years researching the case, contends Shepard was a meth dealer and supposedly was to have a drug shipment worth $10,000 on the night he died.
In Jimenez’s new book, “The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths about the Murder of Matthew Shepard,” he alleges that McKinney was a bisexual meth user who had sex with Matthew on prior occasions, and also claims Matthew was a meth user.
The Times notes Jimenez said in videos posted on a gay conservative website that on the night Matthew was murdered, he was making a drug run, which McKinney knew about. Jimenez alleges at the last minute, Matthew was pulled off the run, thus foiling McKinney and Henderson’s robbery plan. This, he said is what led to the torture and murder of Matthew. Jimenez also claims the robbery turned into hate crime story after some of Matthew’s friends gathered at the hospital before he died and began discussing how he was targeted due to homophobia – a rumor that quickly spread, according to Jimenez.
Shepard’s parents, Dennis and Judy Shepard, who run the Matthew Shepard Foundation, commented on the book, saying it is an attempt to “rewrite the story of this hate crime,” which is “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.” They added they will not be “intimidated by those who seek to tarnish” Matthew’s memory, the Times reports.
GLAAD also spoke out about the book, saying McKinney tried to use a “gay panic” defense in the case, which bolsters the idea Matthew’s murder was a hate crime and he was killed due to his sexual preference.
Media Matters has also reacted in anger to Jiminez’s book, saying it is an effort to de-emphasize the motive for Matthew's killing – homophobia.
In 2009, President Barack Obama signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act, which makes it a crime to attack a person based on gender or perceived gender, sexual orientation, or sexual identity, according to ABC News.
McKinney and Henderson accepted plea deals in the case to avoid the death penalty and are now serving life in prison for Matthew’s murder.