In our second video from Stephen Jimenez, author of The Book Of Matt: Hidden Truths About the Murder of Matthew Shepard, he explains what he discovered regarding Shepard’s involvement with crystal meth and the drug trade:
A reader comments on the previous video:
Maybe I’ll read Jimenez’s book; maybe I won’t. But neither Mr. Shepard’s involvement with drugs nor any potential sexual relationship with one of the perpetrators of his murder reduces, let alone excludes, the likelihood that his murder was fundamentally an act of horrific anti-gay violence.
The research on the relationship between male (closeted) bisexuality and anti-gay attitudes and anti-gay violence is limited but nevertheless compelling. At least one study is I believe referenced in the Forrest Sawyer documentary on anti-gay violence. Research volunteers had sensors attached to their penises and were shown heterosexual as well as homosexual pornography. My recollection is that there was a substantive correlation between bisexual arousal and anti-gay affect (as represented by their responses to questions about homosexuality and gay people). The gratuitous brutality of the torture and murder is more consistent with anti-gay violence than most drug-related violence – at least in this country. These things should be acknowledged first and last.
Update from Jimenez:
The purpose of the book is not to say hate wasn’t involved; it’s to examine the complex human factors that resulted in such a grotesque murder, and how that murder was reported and perceived. Once they read the book, some readers might still conclude the crime was motivated by hate – but not of the “gay panic” variety that we have come to associate with Matthew’s murder.
An award-winning journalist uncovers the suppressed story behind the death of Matthew Shepard, the gay University of Wyoming student whose 1998 murder rocked the nation. Jimenez was a media “Johnny-come-lately” when he arrived in Laramie in 2000 to begin work on the Shepard story. His fascination with the intricate web of secrets surrounding Shepard’s murder and eventual elevation to the status of homosexual martyr developed into a 13-year investigative obsession. The tragedy was “enshrined…as passion play and folktale, but hardly ever for the truth of what it was”: the story of a troubled young man who had died because he had been involved with Laramie’s drug underworld rather than because he was gay.
Drawing on both in-depth research and exhaustive interviews with more than 100 individuals around the United States, Jimenez meticulously re-examines both old and new information about the murder and those involved with it. Everyone had something to hide. For Aaron McKinney, one of the two men convicted of Shepard’s murder, it was the fact that he was Shepard’s part-time bisexual lover and fellow drug dealer. For Shepard, it was that he was an HIV-positive substance abuser with a fondness for crystal meth and history of sexual trauma. Even the city of Laramie had its share of dark secrets that included murky entanglements involving law enforcement officials and the Laramie drug world.
So when McKinney and his accomplices claimed that it had been unwanted sexual advances that had driven him to brutalize Shepard, investigators, journalists and even lawyers involved in the murder trial seized upon the story as an example of hate crime at its most heinous. As Jimenez deconstructs an event that has since passed into the realm of mythology, he humanizes it. The result is a book that is fearless, frank and compelling. Investigative journalism at its relentless and compassionate best.
Our full video archive is here.