Gay student critically hurt in attack
Sheriff investigates Wyoming beating as possible hate crime
LARAMIE, Wyo., Oct. 9 — A gay student at the University of Wyoming was savagely beaten, burned and left to die tied to a wooden fence outside Laramie, 30 miles northwest of Cheyenne. Three suspects were arrested in connection with the attack.
PASSERS-BY found Matthew Shepard, a 22-year-old political science major, bloody and unconscious Wednesday evening a mile northeast of Laramie. His skull had been smashed with a blunt object.
Shepard was in critical condition and on a respirator at Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins. He was last heard from Tuesday evening when he called friends from a bar.
A University of Wyoming student and two other people were arrested Thursday in connection with the beating and were scheduled to be in court Friday. Authorities said they expect more arrests.
Shepard was found by two motorcyclists who at first thought he was a scarecrow because of the way he was positioned on the fence, Albany County Sheriff Gary Puls said.
Police were investigating whether the beating was motivated by Shepard’s sexual orientation. He had twice been beaten recently and attributed those attacks to his open homosexuality, friends said.
His small size, open personality and homosexuality combined to make him a target for viciousness, friends said.
Puls, who initially characterized the attack as a “hate crime,” was later asked if it was an anti-gay attack. “At the present time we are not confirming that,” Puls said.
The three people who were arrested were identified as Russell Arthur Henderson, 21, Chastity Vera Pasley, 20, and Kristen Leann Price, 18. Henderson was being held on suspicion of attempted first-degree murder. Pasley, the University of Wyoming student, and Price were suspected of being accessories after the fact to attempted first-degree murder.
© 1998 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
I still vividly remember reading the article about his beating and the days that followed. I equally remember having trouble sleeping that Sunday night/early Monday morning a few days later. I decided to check for one last update before trying to crash again. The hospital page was updated from my last refresh just a couple hours earlier. Matthew had passed.
My heart sank. I spent the next several minutes crying myself to sleep for a guy I never knew.
It's hard to believe that it's been 10 years. I still remember. The anger, sadness, fear, and shame I felt somehow changed me irrevocably.
I saved a few things, along with this memorial:
Read at Matthew Shepard Vigil - October 14, 1998, in Washington, DC:
"Matt's smile dances before my eyes as I write. All those who were graced with the gift of knowing Matt know the smile I am talking about. Matt never smiled with just his mouth. His whole face and body would light up. His eyes would dance and his vibrancy and energy just radiated from his whole being. It never mattered where we were, when I would meet Matt, he would bounce up to me, throw his arms around me in a hug only Matt could give, and immediately start into some conversation that would quickly suck me in. And we were lost in whatever topic was on his mind when we bumped into each other. His insight, humor, and concern, all poured out, regardless of whether we were talking about world affairs, a class, a friend, or clothes and fashion.
But there are other images of Matt that present themselves. Matt showing up at my door, and asking "Am I bothering you?". His eyes were not dancing, and he was not offering his energetic hug. His eyes had the look of a little boy who had just seen a scary movie. He'd come in and ask if he could "just hang". He'd have his backpack and schoolbooks with him. He'd either sit and watch TV for a little while, or take his books out and start doing homework. After a short time, he'd start talking about hearing someone call out "faggot", or hearing someone talk about "queers". We'd talk about how this touched Matt at the core of his heart, and he needed to feel safe again. Then he'd just hang around, regrouping, and trying to harden himself. Something that never came easy for Matt, because he was not the type of person to "be hard". After some time, the Matt with the dancing eyes would start coming back and he'd be off to class or to meet a friend for coffee.
Matt once told me that he was going to be famous and that he was going to make a difference in the area of human rights. I have to think he had no idea how true that statement would be.
Matt is never going to hop off my couch and bounce off to class or to meet a friend, ever again. But I have to believe that his eyes are dancing as he looks down and sees how he has touched the heart and soul of the people of this nation. But please remember, no matter what good may come from all of this, the price was too high. The price was too high. Please be safe."