Hate Crimes: Matthew Shepard

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Wyoming, October 7th 1998. Aaron Kriefels is cycling in a remote rural area when he sees what at first he believes to be a scarecrow tied to a fence. He looks closer and sees not a scarecrow, but a young man badly beaten and close to death. The victims name was Matthew Shepard. On Dec. 1st 1976, Matthew Shepard was born in Casper, Wyoming. He attended elementary school in the states, but after his first year in high school his family moved to Saudi Arabia. He then attended the American School in Switzerland where he was elected as a peer mediator. His friends and peers felt comfortable talking to him and he was someone you came to when you needed advice. He was described by his father as "an optimistic and accepting young man who had a…show more content…
What happens next is what changed this from a triggered “Gay Panic Defense” (which is, in my opinion a completely bogus and ridiculous excuse for those who can’t control their fists) to a hate crime and a murder. After severely beating Shepard in the moving truck, Henderson tied him to the fence. Their decision to tie his body up for everyone to see is part of their intensions to make it a public display of what they believe should be private. In an interview for the Laramie Project (a play based on the events of Matthew’s death), McKinney’s girlfriend tells writers about why the two men really decided to invite Matt into their car. After being disgusted at the thought of being hit on by a gay man they go to the bathroom where they plan to put on a gay pretense in order to lead Shepard into their vehicle and rob him. They wanted him to be punished for “coming onto straight people.” By lifting his body in midair and tethering him to the fence they were aware that someone would find him that way. They didn’t hide or trash or burry the body, they made it a spectacle. But in doing this, you can deduce that this murder wasn’t fully about Matthew Shepard. He was a trigger, he was someone they could take advantage of. They used his body to show not only to Matthew himself, but to Laramie and the surrounding community that they were defending their ‘manhood.’ And in one

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