By Brody Levesque | WASHINGTON -- A freelance television producer and self-employed writer is claiming that the narrative of events leading to the death 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 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.
Author Steven Jiminez, in a book to be released next month, claims that Shepard 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 Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming's underground methamphetamine drug scene.
Jimenez, an openly gay man, is a graduate of Georgetown University whose past work includes having written and produced television news magazine programmes for ABC News 20/20, Dan Rather Reports, Fox News, and Court TV.
Jimenez alleges that in the course of his 13 year research project into the circumstances regarding Shepard's murder, the anti-gay hatred may have only played a smaller role due to his claim that Aaron McKinney, who was convicted of murdering Shepard, was bisexual.
The Book of Matt: The Truth About the Murder of Matthew Shepherd- claims that Sheppard and McKinney were both dealing and using methamphetamine and, in addition to being business rivals within that venture, had a sexual relationship.
In an emailed statement to LGBTQ Nation Friday, Jason Marsden, the executive director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation wrote:
"The Matthew Shepard Foundation was founded 15 years ago to honor Matthew Shepard, who was killed in a brutal, anti-gay hate crime. Dedicated to Matthew’s ideals, the Foundation aims to replace hate with understanding, compassion, and acceptance through outreach, educational resources, and advocacy programs that have inspired millions of people to take personal action in support of equality for all people regardless of difference.
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.
We do not respond to innuendo, rumor or conspiracy theories. Instead we remain committed to honoring Matthew’s memory, and refuse to be intimidated by those who seek to tarnish it. We owe that to the tens of thousands of donors, activists, volunteers, and allies to the cause of equality who have made our work possible."
In a series of interviews with New York's Tectonic Theatre Project in 2009, which was producing the award winning play the Laramie Project about Shepard's death and the aftermath's effects on the town of Laramie, writer, playwright and Tectonic company member Greg Pierotti met with McKinney at the Virginia Prison where he is serving his sentence.
"Matt Shepard needed killing," McKinney bluntly told Pierotti. "As far as Matt is concerned, I don't have any remorse."
McKinney met with Pierotti for nine hours telling him, "The night I did it, I did have hatred for homosexuals."
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."
Jiminez's narrative however, maintains that McKinney's methamphetamine use was the likely motivation and also acted as explanation for the sheer brutality of the crime given that meth users often commit acts of unspeakable violence when under the influences of the drug.
The book is due to be released by the small New Hampshire publishing house of Steerforth Press on October 1.