October 16, 1998 Friday
The funeral has taken place in the
United States of Matthew Shepard, a 21 year-old student, who was savagely beaten to death
because he was gay. Friends and family gathered in pouring rain at the church in the town
of Casper, Wyoming, where he was baptized.
Matthew had been lured from a campus bar shortly after midnight on
October 7 by two men who told him they were gay. He was driven to a remote area near the
Sherman Hills neighborhood east of Laramie, tied to a split-rail fence, tortured, beaten
and pistol-whipped by his attackers, while he begged for his life; he was then left for
dead in near freezing temperatures. A cyclist Aaron Kreifels, who at first thought that Shepard was a scarecrow. At the time of discovery, Shepard was still alive, but in a coma .he found him on Snowy Mountain View Road at
6:22 pm, some 18 hours after the attack, at first mistook him for a scarecrow. He was
unconscious and suffering from hypothermia. His face was caked with blood, except where it
had been partially washed clean by tears. Matthew
died at 12:53 am on Monday 12th October 1998, at Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins,
Colorado, with his family at his bedside. Hospital officials said Matthew had a fracture
from behind his head to just in front of his right ear and a massive brain stem injury
which affected his vital signs, including his heart beat, body temperature and other
involuntary functions. There were also approximately a dozen small lacerations around his
head, face and neck. He was so badly injured in the attack that doctors were unable to
operate. He never regained consciousness after being found, and remained on full life
Matthew was born December.1, 1976, in Casper, and was the oldest son of Judy Peck Shepard and Dennis Shepard. While living in Casper, he attended Crest Hill Grade School, Dean Morgan Junior High, and completed his sophomore year in Natrona County High School. He was a member and an acolyte in St. Mark's Episcopal Church. He attended the last two years of high school at the American School in Switzerland, where he graduated in 1995. After graduation from high school, he attended Catawba College in Salisbury, N.C.,and Casper College. He then moved to Denver, where he had several jobs. He was a first- year political science major at the University of Wyoming in Laramie at the time of his death. He enjoyed the theatre and had parts in several Casper College and Stage III Theater plays. He liked soccer, swimming, running, camping, hunting, fishing and snow skiing; as well as dancing and theater. Matthew was gentle of demeanor and passionate about human rights and foreign relations. Friends described him as a small man - 5-foot-2, 110 pounds - with a big heart. "He would do anything for anybody". Matthew was killed to make a point. His fragile, broken body was left strung up like an animal as a clear message to gay men everywhere. How can someone be so consumed with hatred for a fellow human being that atrocities like this happen? Why is homosexuality even an issue? Why does it excite such feelings of hatred and violence in people, when their lives will never be touched by it? Why is a person's sexuality anyone else's business; and who are we to judge other people?
I have found myself deeply moved by this senseless tragedy. Let our thoughts be with Matthew, and with his family, and let us commit ourselves, in our daily lives, to ending the hatred. Tears will be shed in Heaven, not only for Matthew, but for those who preach hatred and intolerance, and who incite people to violence in the name of God aman . As the world tries to make sense out of Matthew Shepard's death, perhaps his most important act was his life. He had the courage to be true to himself, and for that he paid a terrible price. The tragic story of this gentle soul has touched the hearts of people across America, and throughout the World. Matthew could have been your son. If you don't teach your kids to show tolerance and understanding towards others,
The following is an extract from the statement from Matthew's parents read by Rulon Stacey, president and CEO of Poudre Valley Health System, to members of the media waiting outside the hospital at 6 p.m. October 10. Matthew was in a critical condition, fighting for his life. "Matthew is a very special person, and everyone can learn important lessons from his life. All of us who know Matthew see him as he is, a very kind and gentle soul. He is a strong believer in humanity and human rights. He is a trusting person who takes everybody at face value and he does not see the bad side of anyone." "His one intolerance is when people don’t accept others as they are. He has always strongly felt that all people are the same regardless of their sexual preference, race or religion." "We know he believes that all of us are part of the same family called Humanity, and each and everyone of us should treat all people with respect and dignity, and that each of us has the right to live a full and rewarding life. That is one lesson which we are very certain he would share with you, if he could." "Matthew also feels strongly about family. He is a loving son, brother and grandson who has made our own lives much richer and fuller than what we would have experienced without him." "Matthew’s life has often been a struggle in one way or another. He was born prematurely, and he struggled to survive as an infant. He is physically short in stature but we believe he is a giant when it comes to respecting the worth of others. We know that he thinks if he can make one person’s life better in this world, then he has succeeded. That is a measure of success which Matthew has always pursued."
Monday, Oct. 12, 1998
WASHINGTON -- Matthew Shepard, 21, the gay University of Wyoming student who was savagely attacked Thursday night and left to die for up to 18 hours tied to a wooden fence outside Laramie, 30 miles northwest of Cheyenne, was pronounced dead this morning. "With a profound sense of sorrow we mourn the death of Matthew Shepard," said HRC Executive Director Elizabeth Birch. "We are deeply saddened by this tragedy and we offer our thoughts and prayers to the Shepard family."
Shepard died while on life support. He had been in a coma since he was found on Thursday by passing motorcyclists. Wyoming's Republican Governor Jim Geringer called on state legislators to adopt laws to deter crimes against lesbians and gay men. "We are calling on all the people to have a renewed discussion to find out what we might do to strengthen our laws," said Gov. Geringer to the Associated Press. I'm open to any suggestion that we might bring to our legislature."
Two men, Russell Arthur Henderson, 21, and Aaron James McKinney, whose age is unconfirmed, were charged with kidnaping aggravated robbery, and attempted first degree murder and held on $100,000 bond. University of Wyoming student, Chastity Vera Pasley, 20 and Kristen Leann Price, 18, were charged as accessories to the crime. Price was released on $30,000 bond and Pasely is still in jail in lieu of the same amount of money.
"Matthew was not very large, at 5'2" 110 pounds, but he had a big heart and was extremely brave," said HRC Political Director Winnie Stachelberg. "He had the courage to live honestly and openly in less than ideal circumstances. Unfortunately, like many gay men and lesbians, there is often a high price to pay for living a life of dignity and respect."
"On behalf of the Shepard family, during this most difficult time, we are unable to fully express our appreciation for the kindness, concern and professionalism of the Poudre Valley Hospital staff in Fort Collins, as shown by Mr Rulon Stacey during his touching statement at the time of our son Matthew’s passing."
"Our appreciation, as well, must be expressed to the Albany County Sheriffs Department, the Laramie City Police Department, and the Ivinson Memorial Hospital in Laramie for their extraordinary help and respectful consideration." "On behalf of our son Matthew Shepard, we want to thank the citizens of the United States, and the people of the world, who have expressed their deepest sympathy and condolences to our family during these trying times."
"A person as caring and loving as our son Matt would be overwhelmed by what this incident has done to the hearts and souls of people around the world." "Matthew was the type of person that, if this had happened to another person, would have been he first on the scene to offer his help, his hope and his heart to the family."
"We, the family, have no adequate way of expressing our gratitude for the thousands of e-mail's comments, web site messages, phone call and cards, offering help, consolation, sympathy and support, that we have received. We are honoured and touched beyond measure." "Please understand and respect my family’s request for a private and dignified farewell to our son today. Matt's family and friends, loved him deeply, and we need to share a quiet goodbye to him. Matt himself would have been the first to honour another family’s request if this had happened to someone else." "We should try to remember that because Matt's last few minutes of consciousness on earth may have been hell, his family and friends want more than ever to say their farewells to him in a peaceful, dignified and loving manner."
"Once again, I must express our appreciation for the outpouring of concern about Matt’s well being during the last week, as he fought for his life in the hospital. We will never forget the love that the world had shared with this kind, loving son."