Based on re-creations and eye witnesses, shortly after midnight on October 7, 1998, Matthew Shepard met A. McKinney and R. Henderson at the Fireside Lounge in Laramie, Wyoming who offered Shepard a ride in their car. After admitting he was gay, Shepard was robbed, pistol whipped, then tortured, tied to a fence in a remote area and was left to die. McKinney and Henderson had also discovered his address and intended to rob his apartment. Still tied to the fence, Shepard was discovered 18 hours later by a jogger who initially mistook Shepard for a scarecrow. At the time of his discovery, Matthew was still alive but comatose.
Matthew suffered numerous fractures to the back of his head and in front of his right ear. He had severe damage to his brain stem which affected his body's ability to regulate vital functions. Also, there were approximately a dozen smaller lacerations around his head, face and neck. His injuries were decidedly too severe for specialists to operate. Matthew did not regained consciousness, remaining on full life support for his time in intensive care. He was pronounced dead at 12:53 a.m. on October 12, 1998.
Matthews father describes him as "an optimistic and accepting young man who had a special gift of relating to almost everyone...very approachable and always looked to new challenges...a great passion for equality and always stood up for the acceptance of people's differences."
In February 1995, during a high school trip abroad. According to his mother, Matthew was beaten and raped causing him to withdraw and experience bouts of depression and panic attacks. One of Shepard's friends feared his depression caused him to become involved with drugs during his time in college. A few days prior to his death, Shepard had also admitted to one of his friends that he was HIV positive
Optimistic, accepting, special gifts, beaten, raped, depression, panic attacks, drug use, HIV, robbed, tortured, pistol whipped, tied to a post, left for dead, killed.
For me, the real “Meaning of Matthew”, all deference to him and his family, is that there was no meaning. His was a life, troubled certainly, that was just starting. And before it got there, it was over in so many ways.
I am determined to find meaning, to give his life and death meaning. I want better for all of us. While his perpetrators are in jail tying to atone for their mistakes, let us look at ours.
How many more Matthews will it take to screw in a light bulb?