Shepard murder case became gay ‘hate crime,’ not drug deal, as result of public narrative: author

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Liberal outrage

Liberal media-watchdog Media Matters and others have reacted angrily to what they say are efforts to re-spin the Shepard story to de-emphasize the homophobic motive for the murder.

McKinney has denied he had sex or did meth with Shepard, wrote Luke Brinker of Media Matters. “The preponderance of evidence indicates that anti-gay bias was central to Shepard’s murder,” he wrote, warning against “hate-crime denialists” and “shoddy reporting.”

The Matthew Shepard Foundation, led by Shepard’s parents, Dennis and Judy Shepard, said efforts 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.”

Rather than responding to such theories, the foundation said, “we recommit ourselves to honoring Matthew’s memory, and refuse to be intimidated by those who seek to tarnish it.”

GLAAD, the anti-defamation group for LGBT people, declined to comment on the book Friday, but the group has joined others in noting that McKinney tried to use a “gay panic” defense at his trial. McKinney and Russell Henderson — then 21, who accepted a plea bargain to avoid the death penalty — are serving life in prison.

Meth shipment

In recent videos on gay conservative commentator Andrew Sullivan’s website The Dish, Mr. Jimenz said that “Matt Shepard was murdered because he became involved with a group of dealers who were involved in transporting meth back and forth between Wyoming and Colorado.”

“On the night the attack happened, there was a shipment — a regular shipment — of meth coming into Laramie that Matthew was involved with. Matthew was actually slated that night to be one of the two people who was making the run,” Mr. Jimenez said.

McKinney, who had been strung out on meth for five days, was broke, couldn’t afford to pay his rent and owed money to drug dealers. He knew about the shipment and Shepard’s role in the transaction.

“So, ultimately what Aaron was really after when he met up with Matthew at the Fireside bar was the shipment of meth,” which was worth $10,000 to $20,000, Mr. Jimenez said.

At the last minute, however, Shepard was pulled off the run and couldn’t produce the meth, Mr. Jiminez said, and a robbery plan turned into a vicious murder.

How did the “hate-crime” story get launched?

While Shepard was alive in the hospital, some of his friends began talking about him as an innocent gay man who was “lynched” by ignorant, backward homophobes. That narrative spread like wildfire, and by the time of his passing, “the question had been firmly settled,” Mr. Hicklin wrote in the Advocate.

In the end, however it happened, Shepard’s horrible murder was “a kind of hate crime — just not as straightforward as the one we’ve embraced all these years,” Mr. Hicklin concluded.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

About the Author
Cheryl Wetzstein

Cheryl Wetzstein

Cheryl Wetzstein covers family and social issues as a national reporter for The Washington Times. She has been a reporter for three decades, working in New York City and Washington, D.C. Since joining The Washington Times in 1985, she has been a features writer, environmental and consumer affairs reporter, and assistant business editor.

Beginning in 1994, Mrs. Wetzstein worked exclusively ...

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