Matthew Shepard died 15 years ago this month.
By BRIAN BURNES
The Kansas City Star
However shocking the gruesome details of the gay students beating death in October 1998 authorities found him tied to a log fence near Laramie, Wyo.; he died five days later there was more to the story, friends quickly suggested.
Their statements that Shepard likely had been targeted because he was gay rendered his death as possibly the countrys most horrific anti-gay hate crime. Their remarks received immediate play in the media; activists organized protests and demonstrations.
Journalist Stephen Jimenez, however, believes that Shepards killing was not triggered by what one of his assailants earlier had described as a gay panic after Shepard allegedly had approached him in a bar.
As he writes in The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths About the Murder of Matthew Shepard, Jimenez believes that Aaron McKinney, with accomplice Russell Henderson, assaulted Shepard for drugs and money.
After 13 years of investigation, Jimenez believes McKinney, who initially said he hadnt known Shepard, in fact had known him for close to a year. Both he and Shepard, Jimenez writes, were dealing and using methamphetamine in Laramie.
Jimenezs book, at minimum, greatly complicates the accepted narrative of Shepards death, which inspired a play and television movie and contributed momentum to a federal hate crime law.
Some critics have wondered about the integrity of Jimenezs sources. An online petition also surfaced, urging booksellers not to host events featuring Jimenez.
What the book is saying is, lets face the complexities: This was much more complicated than a pure anti-gay hate crime, Jimenez said before speaking at Unity Temple on the Plaza in an appearance scheduled by Rainy Day Books.
What Ive noticed is that there was a lot of commentary before the book came out. There seemed to be many people responding to the idea of the book rather than what was actually in it.
What Im saying is that if we are serious about dealing with hatred and violence in its many manifestations, then lets look at the complex circumstances that, in this case, brought about such a grotesque and violent crime.
Jimenezs book was published by Steerforth Press of New Hampshire, whose president is Chip Fleischer, a Kansas City native.
For more information, go to Steerforth.com.