LARAMIE, Wyo. (Reuters) - A jury Wednesday found a
Wyoming man guilty of murder and kidnapping in the fatal beating of a gay
college student in 1998, the second man to be convicted in the notorious case.
Aaron McKinney, 22, a high school dropout who worked as a roofer in this college town, faces a possible death sentence for the murder of Matthew Shepard, 21.
But the jury of seven men and five women found McKinney not guilty of first degree premeditated murder -- meaning they were not convinced he intended to kill Shepard -- which could result in a sentence of life imprisonment.
The brutal nature of the beating stunned the nation, prompting vigils, demonstrations and calls for anti-hate crime legislation.
President Clinton said he hoped the verdict brought a
sense of closure for Shepard's parents, Dennis and Judy Shepard, and called on
the nation to "unite in outrage against hate-based violence."
"We cannot surrender to those on the fringe of our society who lash out at those who are different," Clinton said in a statement. "Their crimes impose a particular cost on society by tearing at the social fabric. It is my continued hope that together, as a nation, we will work to repair that fabric."
McKinney, a high school dropout, took a deep breath
when the verdicts were read, but otherwise showed no emotion.
Prosecutors will try to persuade jurors the crime was so heinous that McKinney deserves to die, while the defense will plead with the jury to spare the life of the father of one.
Police testified that McKinney and his friend Russell Henderson lured Shepard from a Laramie bar, pistol whipped him and left him tied to a fence outside of town to die. Shepard was found some 18 hours later and died in a hospital on Oct. 12, 1998.
McKinney was also found guilty of aggravated robbery and second degree murder. The jury deliberated about nine hours. The term felony murder is used to refer to a killing committed during a felony.
Prosecutors argued that McKinney was like a "wolf" preying on his smaller victim.
But defense lawyers, who admitted McKinney's role in the attack, told jurors their client was more a loser than a cold-blooded murderer and that he never meant to kill Shepard. They described him as a hapless loser called "dopey" by his friends.
The defense said McKinney flew into a blind rage when Shepard allegedly made an unwelcome sexual advance which revived memories of childhood sexual abuse and a homosexual experience at the age of 15.
Jeff Montgomery of the Coalition for Anti-Violence,
predicted the defense will delve further into the victim's life during the
penalty phase and seek to "denigrate the character of Matthew
The defense team's strategy was cut short Monday when state court Judge Barton Voight barred them from using the controversial "gay panic" defense. The defense called seven witnesses before resting its case Monday afternoon.
Henderson pleaded guilty in April to murder and
kidnapping and was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences in prison.
Can't Claim 'Gay Panic'
LARAMIE, Wyo. -- The judge in the Matthew Shepard murder case barred the man on trial Monday from using a "gay panic" defense.
Lawyers for Aaron McKinney rested their case several hours later.
District Judge Barton Voigt ruled that the strategy adopted by McKinney's lawyers in the beating death of the gay college student is akin to temporary insanity or a diminished-capacity defense -- both of which are prohibited under Wyoming law.
"What the defendant is trying to do is to raise a mental-status defense that is not recognized by Wyoming law, and of which there has been no notice and no opportunity for the court or opposing counsel to consider before trial," he said. "Even if relevant, the evidence will mislead and confuse the jury."
McKinney, 22, could get the death penalty if convicted of murdering Shepard, who was lashed to a fence and left to die on the prairie last year.
Panic' Defense Under Attack
Judge Questions Strategy in Shepard Murder Trial
Wyo. (AP) -- The judge in the Matthew Shepard murder case threatened today to
bar the man on trial from employing a "gay panic" defense.
District Judge Barton Voigt told Aaron McKinney's lawyers that he is not sure such a defense is allowed under Wyoming law and criticized the defense for invoking it without consulting him first.
"I am concerned about this and where it is going," Voigt said outside the presence of the jury. "We do not have a gay panic defense. I don't know if I'm going to allow it."
McKinney is charged with murder in the beating death of the gay University of Wyoming student.
The "gay panic" or "homosexual panic" defense is built on a theory that a person with latent homosexual tendencies will have an uncontrollable, violent reaction when propositioned by a homosexual.
relevance in this case'
McKinney's lawyers have argued that McKinney snapped during a drunken, drug-induced rage after a sexual advance by Shepard triggered memories of a childhood homosexual assault. The lawyers are trying to save McKinney's life by convincing the jury he is guilty only of manslaughter.
Voigt said the closest defense he could find in Wyoming law is the "battered woman" defense, for those who kill a spouse in self-defense.
Defense attorney Dion Custis denied he was using a "gay panic" defense. But he said: "The fact that Matthew Shepard made a sexual advance has a relevance in this case. It's something Aaron McKinney responded to." He added that Shepard's behavior helps explain McKinney's state of mind, "which is a defense."
The judge ordered Custis to provide a legal basis for his arguments and said he would make a decision later.
One of the lead investigators in the case, police Cmdr. Dave O'Malley, was on the stand as the prosecution outlined events that led to the arrest of McKinney and Russell Henderson.
Gay rights activists praised the judge, saying it is wrong to try to blame Shepard for McKinney's actions.
"The only person at risk here was Matthew Shepard," said Wayne Besem, spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, a gay lobbying group in Washington. "If Aaron McKinney felt threatened, all he had to do was walk away."
Brian Levin, director of the California-based Center on Hate and Extremism, also said the strategy hasn't worked recently because Americans have become more tolerant of homosexuals.
"I feel we've turned a very big corner in that nearly everyone agrees that violence against them is completely wrong," he said. "I don't think you had the same type of atmosphere 20 or 30 years ago."
That tolerance was amplified in part by the brutality of Shepard's death. Last October, the college freshman was lashed to a wood fence in a remote area, robbed and pistol-whipped into a coma. He died five days later.
Prosecutors said McKinney led the charge. Henderson pleaded guilty to murder and kidnapping in April and is serving two life sentences
Defendant Uses 'Gay Panic' Defense
Says He Snapped After a Sexual Advance
Wyo. (AP) -- The alleged ringleader in the beating death of college student
Matthew Shepard has adopted a "gay panic" defense, a somewhat risky
strategy that has had little success in recent years.
opening statements Monday, Aaron McKinney's lawyer argued that McKinney snapped
after a sexual advance from Shepard triggered memories of a homosexual assault
by a childhood bully. The lawyer also contended McKinney was under the influence
of drugs and alcohol at the time.
defense is hoping to save McKinney's life by convincing the jury that he is
guilty of manslaughter instead of murder.
The trial for the second suspect in the beating death of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard was pushed back this week, from Aug. 9 to Oct. 11.
Aaron McKinney, 21, faces a first-degree murder charge and the possibility of a death sentence for his alleged role in Shepard's slaying. His court-appointed lawyers, Dion Custis and Jason Tangeman, asked for the postponement, said District Judge Barton Voigt.
"It was requested by the defense for more preparation time,'' Voigt said Thursday afternoon. "That's about all I can say.''
Custis and Tangeman are barred from speaking to the media by a gag order Voigt has imposed on all trial participants.
The other man charged in Shepard's death, Russell Henderson, 21, avoided a trial and a possible death sentence by pleading guilty on April 5 to felony murder and kidnapping. He was sentenced to two consecutive life terms and will not be eligible for parole. His only hope for release is a pardon.
McKinney's continuance was granted during a closed court hearing Tuesday.
Shepard died Oct. 12, five days after he was found tied to a fence, bloodied and comatose from 18 blows to the head. Authorities have said the chief motive was robbery but that he may have been targeted because he was gay.
Girlfriend sentenced to prison for her role in Shepard slaying
The girlfriend of a man who helped kill Matthew Shepard must spend up to two years behind bars for trying to cover up the crime.
Chasity Pasley frequently sobbed Friday during her sentencing for being an accessory after the fact to first-degree murder in the October 1998 death of Shepard, a University of Wyoming student. She pleaded guilty to the charge in December.
She admitted helping Russell Henderson dump the bloody clothing he wore when he beat Shepard to death.
Shepard, who was homosexual, was lured out of a Laramie bar late Oct. 6, 1998. His assailants hit him 18 times in the head, stole his wallet, tied him to a fence and left him for dead.
Henderson pleaded guilty to first-degree murder last month. He was sentenced to two life prison terms.
The capital murder trial of his co-defendant, Aaron McKinney, is scheduled for August.
Pasley, 20, told District Judge Jeffrey Donnell she worked with gay and lesbian students at the University of Wyoming's student center. Under questioning from her attorney, Pasley said she wanted to apologize to a friend of Shepard's a week after her arrest because she didn't call police when Henderson told her he'd help "beat up some gay guy."
"I have to deal with it every day, forever, not knowing if I could have helped him or not," she said, crying. "I have to deal with the pain."
She admitted she initially lied to detectives because of her love for Henderson. "I told him it was not right to beat someone up because he's gay. I was very angry at him," Pasley said.
Shepard's parents, Dennis and Judy Shepard, who live in Saudi Arabia, did not attend the sentencing.
In a statement, Judy Shepard asked Pasley why she failed to intervene while her son lay bleeding. Dennis Shepard said he'd planned a hunting trip this fall with his two sons, "but now I only have one son."
Pasley's pre-sentence report recommended probation. But Donnell said her complicity in helping Henderson while Shepard was unconscious prompted him to order a prison sentence of between 15 and 24 months.
"I don't know if you could have saved him or not," the judge said. "This was a horrific crime. The court cannot separate you from your acts."
Gay-Bashing Accomplice's Trial Delayed
LARAMIE, Wyo. -- A trial for one of two women charged with covering up evidence in the murder of gay college student Matthew Shepard has been delayed, a court official said Thursday.
No new trial date was immediately set for Kristen LeAnn Price, 19, whose case was set for jury trial May 24.
"Both sides stipulated for continuance," said Dean Jessup, spokesman for District Judge Jeffrey Donnell. Price was charged with accessory after the fact to first-degree murder for helping to throw away clothing that was bloodied during the attack on Shepard last October. If convicted, she could receive up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $3,000.
Shepard died Oct. 12, five days after he was found tied to a fence, bloodied and comatose from 18 blows to the head.
April 5, 1999
LARAMIE, WYOMING - Judy Shepard and her husband Dennis listen to prosecutor Cal Rerucha outside the Albany County Courthouse April 5 after Russell Henderson pled guilty to murdering their son Matthew Shephard. Henderson pled guilty to murder, kidnapping and aggravated robbery in Shephard's grisly beating death last October and was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences. Photo by Rick Wilking (Reuters)
By Judith Crosson
LARAMIE, Wyo. (Reuters) - One of two young men accused of the brutal murder of gay Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard pleaded guilty Monday, admitting his role in an attack that threw the spotlight on hate crimes and anti-gay violence.
Russell Henderson, 21, took the guilty plea in exchange for a sentence of life in prison. Prosecutor Cal Rerucha had sought the death penalty for last October's attack.
Henderson and his friend, Aaron McKinney, also 21, have been accused of murder, kidnapping and robbery in the slaying of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old student at the University of Wyoming.
Prosecutors say the two men lured Shepard from a Laramie bar last October, pistol-whipped him and lashed him to a fence on a country road in sub-freezing temperatures. Shepard died five days later in a hospital.
Opening statements in Henderson's trial had been set to begin Tuesday, but speculation grew that he would agree to a plea bargain after the court said there would be a pre-trial hearing Monday.
McKinney, who is due to go on trial in August, has already admitted that the two beat Shepard, but has said that he dealt the three final blows.
Henderson's guilty plea could set the stage for him to testify at his friend's trial, although it was not clear Monday if that would happen.
Shepard's murder brought an unwelcome glare of media attention on the small college town of Laramie, whose 26,000 residents expressed shock over the brutality of the crime.
Gay activists have said the attack showed the need for anti-hate crime legislation. It spurred vigils and rallies and turned the desolate, windswept hill where the attack occurred into a pilgrimage site.
During jury selection for Henderson's trial, his attorney Wyatt Skaggs said his client was present at the assault but did not take part.
Prosecutors have said Shepard, a boyish freshman who weighed just 105 pounds, spent 18 agonizing hours tied to the fence before being found by a passerby.
McKinney's girlfriend, Kristen Price, 19, told police that McKinney became enraged after Shepard flirted with him in the bar, which embarrassed him and sparked the attack. But McKinney denied that Shepard made any advances to the two defendants.
Price and Henderson's girlfriend, Chasity
Pasley, 20, were charged as accessories after the fact for allegedly destroying
bloody clothes and providing the two men with false
Pasley pleaded guilty and will be sentenced later this year. Price's trial is set for May.
The prosecutor appeared determined not to let Shepard's homosexuality become an issue in the trial.
But it was definitely an issue outside the Albany County courthouse Monday as about a dozen anti-gay protesters faced off with a group calling themselves "Angels of Peace" who came dressed in angelic costumes complete with wings.
The anti-gay group led by controversial Kansas preacher Fred Phelps has picketed a number of gay events, and demonstrated outside the church at Shepard's funeral in Casper, Wyoming.
April 3, 1999
LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) - Jury selection and opening statements in
the first trial
in the Matthew Shepard beating death, which had been set for early next week,
were delayed Friday after the judge ordered a last-minute hearing.
A spokesman for 2nd District Judge Jeffrey A. Donnell said a hearing will be
held 1 p.m. Monday in the case of Russell Henderson, who has been charged
with first-degree murder, kidnapping and aggravated robbery in the death of
Shepard last October.
A second man, Aaron McKinney, faces an August trial on the same charges.
The subject of the Henderson hearing was not disclosed.
"I'm not at liberty to discuss the subject matter of the hearing on Monday,"
said Dean Jessup, legal assistant for Donnell.
Henderson's attorney, Wyatt Skaggs, would have no comment, said Paul
Sonenberg, a research assistant in Skaggs' office. Prosecutor Cal Rerucha
would not be available for comment, said Deputy County Attorney Ken Brown.
"I have not heard a word on it," said Lucy Thompson, Henderson's grandmother,
who declined further comment.
One of McKinney's attorneys, Dion Custis, said the hearing "raises lots of
concerns and questions about what's going on."
Asked if the development means a plea bargain was in the works, Jason
Tangeman, another attorney for McKinney, said the hearing could be for a
number of issues, including jury misconduct, a threat against a juror or
Henderson asking for a new attorney.
"Trust me, I'm on the edge of my seat, also," he said.
During jury selection, Skaggs indicated it was McKinney, not his client, who
fatally pummeled Shepard.
"Russell Henderson was a witness to the beating of Matthew Shepard," Skaggs
told prospective jurors. "The defense will contend that Russell did not
participate in the beating and did not share in the proceeds of the robbery."
Shepard, 21, may have been targeted because he was gay, authorities said. He
was found tied to a fence Oct. 7 and died five days later from 18 blows to
The final round of jury selection in the Henderson trial, which had been
scheduled for Monday, was postponed until Tuesday. Opening statements were
pushed back one day, to Wednesday.
Henderson and McKinney face the death penalty if convicted.
March 24 —
Nearly seven months ago, Matthew Shepard was found comatose, lashed to a log fence,
his hands bound beneath him, his head beaten in by 18 blows from the butt of a
He died five days later.
Now, jury selection is under way today in the trial of Russell Henderson, one of two high school dropouts charged in the October beating death of the 21-year-old University of Wyoming student.
Defendant Shows Little Emotion
Security was tight today at the courthouse — extra police were on duty and fences have been erected around the building. Opening statements are scheduled for April 6.
Henderson showed little emotion and occasionally looked at the pool of possible jurors seated in the courtroom’s spectator section.
Shepard’s mother, Judy, was seated next to a victims’ advocate in a back row of the section.
During the morning session, eight prospective jurors were refused for various reasons, including health and business issues. One woman was dismissed for child-care reasons.
Jim Osborn, who had known Shepard since grade school, stopped by the courthouse to remember his friend.
“The most important thing is: My friend is dead,” Osborn said. “Matt was a person. He wasn’t just a gay man. Nothing can bring him back.”
Prosecutors say they’ll seek the death penalty for Henderson, 21, if he’s convicted on charges of first-degree murder, aggravated robbery and kidnapping.
Click Here To View The Rest Of This Article
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) -- The trial for one of two men accused in the beating
death of University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard has been delayed from
March 22 to April 6.
Judge Jeffrey Donnell moved the start of the trial for Russell Henderson because of a scheduling conflict involving one of the attorneys.
Shepard died following a brutal beating near Laramie in October that police said was motivated in part because he was gay.
Henderson and Aaron McKinney, both 21, are charged with murder and face the death penalty if convicted. McKinney's trial is set for Aug. 9
TV cameras barred from Wyoming trial
LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) — Television cameras
will not be allowed in the courtroom for the murder trial of one of two men
accused of killing gay college student Matthew Shepard.
Judge Jeffrey Donnell denied the request by Court TV for live, uninterrupted coverage of Russell Henderson's trial. He said he based his decision on concern for the privacy of witnesses and jurors.
Another concern, Donnell said Tuesday, was being able to seat an impartial jury in the trial of the second defendant, Aaron McKinney.
Henderson's trial is scheduled for March 22, McKinney's for Aug. 9.
McKinney and Henderson, both 21, are charged with murder and face the death penalty if convicted.
Shepard died following a brutal beating in Laramie last October. Police have said the attack was motivated in part because he was gay.
Two men accused of killing
gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard could receive lethal
injections if convicted.
Prosecutor Cal Rerucha served notice Monday that he will seek the death penalty against Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, both 21. They are charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping and aggravated robbery.
Shepard, 21, allegedly was beaten with the butt of a handgun and robbed of $20 after he was lured from a bar by the two suspects, who targeted Shepard because he was gay, police said.
Shepard was found tied to a log fence outside Laramie. He died on Oct. 12, five days after the attack.
The beating brought condemnation from President Clinton, who renewed a call to expand the federal hate crimes law to include crimes based on a victim’s sexual orientation, gender or disability.
Wyoming Execution in 1992
Wyoming, nicknamed the Equality State because it was the first to let women vote, serve on juries and hold public office, is one of nine states with no hate-crime law.
Rerucha will have to prove one or more of 12 aggravating circumstances allowed under Wyoming law. The list includes whether the murder was “especially atrocious or cruel,” “unnecessarily torturous” and occurred during a robbery, burglary or kidnapping.
Rerucha declined comment about his decision to seek the death penalty, which was filed in court papers Monday afternoon. A brief paragraph in each notice offered no explanation.
Attorneys for McKinney and Henderson could not be reached for comment.
Wyoming’s last execution was in 1992. There are two men on the state’s death row.
Henderson’s trial is to begin March 22, and McKinney’s on Aug. 9.
LARAMIE, Wyoming -- A woman pleaded guilty Wednesday to hiding evidence and providing her boyfriend and another man with a false alibi in the murder two months ago of gay university student Matthew Shepard.
Chasity Pasley, 20, entered her guilty plea during a 15-minute hearing. Judge Jeffrey Donnell did not immediately impose a sentence on her but ordered a pre-sentencing report.
Pasley had originally pleaded not guilty. She is the girlfriend of Russell Henderson, who faces charges of first-degree murder, kidnapping and aggravated robbery in the slaying of Matthew Shepard, a student at the University of Wyoming, in October.
Henderson and Aaron McKinney are accused of luring Shepard from a Laramie bar after he told them he was gay. The two high school dropouts allegedly pistol-whipped Shepard and then tied him to a fence, where he was left to die.
Prosecutors have said Shepard spent 18 hours in agony before he was found by a passer-by and taken to a hospital, where he died five days later.
The slaying attracted national attention because of its brutality and evidence that it was carried out because Shepard was gay.
Pasley and Kristen Price, McKinney's girlfriend, were charged as accessories after the fact for allegedly hiding bloody clothes and providing false alibis. Price's trial is scheduled to begin May 24.
Pasley and Price face up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $3,000.
Pasley's attorney Maribeth Galvan told the court her client had no plea bargain arrangement with the prosecutor.
Prosecutors have until December 31 to decide if they will seek the death penalty for Henderson and McKinney, who have pleaded not guilty. All four defendants remain in custody
SUMMARY: The men accused of murdering Matthew Shepard together will go to court one at a time; meanwhile, Wyoming will get a new hate crimes bill to consider.
The accused killers of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard will be tried separately, it was determined in a closed hearing in Laramie on December 10. Russell Henderson's trial was set for March 22 and Aaron McKinney's for August 9. Both face charges of first-degree murder, aggravated robbery, and kidnapping with intent to harm or intimidate the victim, in a case which has received unprecedented attention from media, politicians and activists across the country.
Prosecutors sought a gag order on trial participants and asked for the men's criminal files to be sealed. Arguments from the media will be heard on this point.
Meanwhile, on December 9, McKinney was ordered by Wyoming District Judge Jeffrey Donnell to serve one year in the Albany County Jail and to pay more than $4,000 in restitution for a December 1997 burglary to which he had pleaded no contest. Donnell was also the original judge for the Shepard case, but has been removed from McKinney's trial for the murder at his attorneys' request. Donnell stated for the record that, "This sentence does not consider events since [the burglary trial]. This is a sentence that would have been entered in any event," regardless of the Shepard case.
In a related development, Wyoming's Bias Crimes Coalition held a press conference on December 10 to announce that it's developing a bill for the state legislature's 1999 session. State Senator Jayne Mockler (D-Cheyenne) said, "I think we have the best opportunity ever" for passage, even though several previous bills have been rejected, including one earlier this year. She added, "I think it would not have stopped Matthew's murder, but maybe it will stop someone else's." The Coalition includes the United Gays & Lesbians of Wyoming, the statewide social justice group Grass Roots Project, and the Wyoming Church Coalition. The proposed measure would increase sentences for criminal cases directly linked to prejudice based on gender, sexual orientation or race.
Shepard is still very much in the running in the online poll to help
TIME magazine select its Man of the Year for 1998.]
LARAMIE, Wyoming (AP) -- The two men accused of killing gay student Matthew Shepard will be tried separately, a judge ruled Thursday.
District Judge Jeffrey Donnell gave no reason for the decision regarding Russell Arthur Henderson and Aaron James McKinney.
Prosecutors wanted a single trial, claiming two people accused of the same crime should be tried together. Defense attorneys opposed a combined trial but would not say why publicly. Thursday's hearing was closed to the public.
Henderson's trial was set for March 22,1999, McKinney's for August 9,1999.
The two are accused of beating and robbing Shepard on October 7 and tying him to a fence outside Laramie. The University of Wyoming student died days later. Investigators said he was targeted in part because he was gay.
The men's girlfriends are charged with helping them dispose of evidence. Their trial dates have not been set.
Thursday, December 10, 1998; Page A46
LARAMIE, Wyo., Dec. 9The girlfriends of two men charged in the beating death of gay college student Matthew Shepard pleaded not guilty today to helping the men dispose of evidence.
Chasity Vera Pasley, 20, and Kristen LeAnn Price, 19, both of Laramie, are accused of helping to dispose of bloody clothing that police say was worn by Pasley's boyfriend, Russell Arthur Henderson, 21, and provided false alibis for their boyfriends.
District Judge Jeffrey A. Donnell did not set a trial date for either woman.
Shepard died five days after the Oct. 7 attack from 18 blows to the head.
Henderson and Aaron James McKinney, 21, both of Laramie, have pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, kidnapping and aggravated robbery and are awaiting trial.
Pasley and Price are each charged with being an accessory after the fact to first-degree murder. The charge carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a $3,000 fine.
Price and McKinney have a 5-month-old son who is being cared for by Price's mother.
Pasley reached for a tissue and cried after her arraignment. Price showed little emotion. Each is being held on $30,000 bail.
No trial date has been set for McKinney and Henderson. Prosecutor
Cal Rerucha has until Dec. 31 to decide whether he will seek the death penalty against the
Guilty" in Shepard
Wednesday, December 9, 1998 / 03:44 PM
SUMMARY: The 2 alleged accessories in the infamous bash-murder case have, like the accused perpetrators, pleaded their innocence in court.
Following the lead of their boyfriends who are charged with the murder of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard, Chastity Pasley and Kristen LeAnn Price on December 9 pleaded not guilty to charges as accessories to the crime. For assisting Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson by helping to dispose of bloody clothing and misleading the police, each woman could be sentenced to as much as three years in prison and a $3,000 fine as accessories after the fact to first-degree murder. The hearing in Laramie was presided over by Wyoming District Judge Jeffrey Donnell, who is currently presiding in Henderson's case but has been removed from McKinney's at the request of that defendant's attorneys; a meeting December 10 will begin to determine whether the two men will be tried together or separately. No trial date has yet been set for either woman.
In a case that drew unprecedented attention from media,
politicians and activists across the U.S. and beyond, on October 7 Shepard was brutally
beaten, pistol-whipped, tied to a fence, and abandoned. He was found some 18 hours later
and died in a hospital on October 12. Vigils and other memorial events have been held in
communities large and small across the country, and campaigns for hate crimes legislation
recognizing homophobic assaults were sparked at local, state and national levels. (Among
those measures currently pending are a statewide bill now before the Michigan Senate and a
local bill for Cincinnatti, Ohio, which has passed a legal review despite the provisions
of the city's infamous anti-gay Issue 3.) Shepard is even currently leading in an online poll to help
select TIME magazine's annual Man of the Year.
DECEMBER 3, 1998
New Judge in Shepard Case
Aaron McKinney, suspect in the murder of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard, had requested a new judge for his trial, something which Wyoming will automatically grant once per case. Second District Judge Jeffrey Donnell on December 3 signed the case over to 8th District Judge Barton Voigt, who is based 130 miles away from Laramie, where the crime occurred. Donnell is still the judge for the other murder suspect, Russell Henderson, but prosecutors are hoping to be allowed to try the two men together.
December 3, 1998
Prosecutors want two men tried together in the death of Matthew Shepard, the gay college student who was fatally beaten and lashed to a fence to die.
Prosecutor Cal Rerucha has filed a motion to join the cases against Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, both 21. Each pleaded innocent Wednesday to charges of first-degree murder, kidnapping and aggravated robbery. No trial date was set.
Henderson's public defender, Wyatt Skaggs, is opposed to a joint trial. And attorneys for McKinney requested that Judge Jeffrey A. Donnell step down from the case. They do not have to provide a reason for such a request.
Documents detailing arguments for the motions were unavailable to the public, and attorneys for both sides refused to comment. Donnell scheduled a closed hearing Dec. 10 on the motion to try the cases together.
Donnell also ordered Rerucha to declare by Dec. 31 whether he will seek the death penalty for the two.
Shepard, 21, was lured from a downtown Laramie bar Oct. 7, beaten and robbed, then tied to a fence outside town and beaten some more, authorities said. He died five days later.
He was targeted because he was gay, according to testimony at an earlier court hearing.
The attack prompted widespread outrage, a condemnation from President Bill Clinton and calls for tougher hate-crime laws.
Henderson and McKinney are being held without bond.
By Robert W. Black
LARAMIE, Wyo. -- The two men charged in the murder of gay college student Matthew Shepard pleaded not guilty yesterday and expect to find out before the end of the year whether they could face the death penalty.
Russell Arthur Henderson and Aaron James McKinney, both 21, entered their pleas during separate hearings. Judge Jeffrey A. Donnell said he would set trial dates at a hearing next Thursday.
Henderson and McKinney are charged with first-degree murder, aggravated robbery, and kidnapping with intent to inflict bodily injury or to terrorize the victim.
Shepard, 21, who was beaten and robbed Oct. 7, was targeted because he was gay, according to testimony at an earlier court hearing. He was bound and tied to a wooden fence post in the foothills outside of Laramie, about 50 miles west of Cheyenne. The University of Wyoming freshman died five days later.
The attack prompted widespread outrage, a condemnation from President Clinton, and calls for tougher hate-crime laws.
Henderson came up with the idea of robbing Shepard, but McKinney was the one who struck Shepard repeatedly with the butt of a .357 Magnum, authorities allege.
Henderson and McKinney are being held without bond.
Prosecutor: Attackers planned to rob gay student
LARAMIE, Wyoming (CNN) -- Prosecutors provided gruesome testimony about the murder of a gay college student Thursday as one of his accused killers sat quietly at a table, showing no emotion.
At the end of a five-hour preliminary hearing, Judge Robert B. Denhardt bound Aaron James McKinney over for trial on charges of first-degree murder, aggravated robbery and kidnapping with intent to inflict bodily injury or to terrorize the victim.
The murder charge carries a possible death penalty, but prosecutor Cal Rerucha has not said whether he will seek a death sentence for McKinney.
Prosecutors say he and Russell Henderson, both 21, lured University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard out of a campus bar on October 7 and took him to a remote area outside Laramie, where they beat him to get information so they could burglarize his apartment.
"As he lay there bleeding and begging for his life, he was then bound to the buck fence," Rerucha told a packed courtroom. The alleged attackers left Shepard lying in near-freezing temperatures.
The slightly built student, 21, had been hit in the head at least 18 times with the butt of a .357-caliber Magnum, Rerucha said. And his hands were bound so tightly a sheriff's deputy had trouble cutting him free.
Several hours after the attack, another student passing by on a mountain bike found the comatose Shepard, initially mistaking the nearly lifeless body for a "scarecrow or a dummy set there for Halloween jokes."
"(The deputy) found what she thought was a 13-year-old boy with severe head injuries," Rerucha said
Shepard never regained consciousness and died five days later in a Colorado hospital. His killing prompted international attention, outraged gay communities and provoked new debate about laws against hate crimes.
Authorities said McKinney and Henderson first befriended Shepard by telling him they were gay and they wanted to get "better acquainted."
As they drove away in McKinney's truck, McKinney pulled a handgun and said "We're not gay, and you're jacked," according to Rerucha.
Henderson waived his right to a preliminary hearing and will stand trial as well. Both men are being held without bond.
The suspects' girlfriends, Chasity Pasley, 20, and Kristen Price, 18, also waived their rights to a preliminary hearing. Both are charged as accessories after the fact and are being held on $30,000 bond.
"The two subjects hid the bloody shoes of Henderson in a storage shed in Pasley's mother's home in Laramie," according to felony information filed with the court. Court papers also said the two young women provided Henderson and McKinney with alibis.
Judy and Dennis Shepard await the preliminary hearing for Aaron James McKinney, a defendant in the killing of their son, Matthew.
Officers testified that Shepards face was
caked with blood - except where it had been partially washed clean by tears. They said his
wrists were bound so tightly, it was difficult to cut the rope.
Explaining the violence, McKinney told his girlfriend, Kristin Price, Well, you know how I feel about gays, Police Detective Ben Fritzen testified. And DeBree said McKinney repeatedly referred to Shepard as queer and faggot.
McKinney sat expressionless for most of the five-hour hearing, smiling once or twice when he spoke with his attorneys.
Shepards parents, Dennis and Judy Shepard, sat in the front row, his mother crying when a deputy identified photographs of her son in the hospital.
Public defender Dion Custis said the state failed to meet its burden of proof that the murder was planned and said Shepard was not kidnapped, but went willingly. A watch, money and other property left at the crime scene showed that robbery was not a factor either, he said.
Ms. Price, 18, and Hendersons girlfriend, Chasity Vera Pasley, 20, will be arraigned Dec. 9 on accessory after the fact to first-degree murder.
Henderson and McKinney are being held without bond. Rerucha has not yet indicated if he will seek the death penalty.
"(The deputy) found what she thought was a 13-year-old boy
with severe head injuries," Rerucha said.
A student passing by on a mountain bike found Shepard, initially mistaking the nearly lifeless body for "a scarecrow or a dummy set there for Halloween jokes."
Shepard's blood-caked face had been partially washed clean by tears; he died five days later.
As the prosecutor spoke, McKinney sat quietly at a nearby table, showing no emotion. Shepard's mother, Judy, bowed her head at times during the hearing as she sat in the front row next to her husband, Dennis.
McKinney and Henderson repeatedly grilled Shepard for information so they could burglarize his apartment and then left him with the "constant Wyoming wind" as his companion, Rerucha said.
The other suspect, Russell Arthur Henderson, had waived his right to a preliminary hearing and is scheduled to be arraigned Dec. 2. Both men are charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping and robbery.
The lead investigator, Sheriffs Detective Sgt. Rob DeBree, testified that McKinney, 21, admitted to the beating and implicated his friend Henderson, also 21. According to DeBree, McKinney said that robbery was the main motive but that Shepard was chosen as a target because he was gay. DeBree said McKinney admitted Matthew did not hit on them or make advances in the Fireside Bar, but that they lured him out intending to rob him and burglarize his house.
According to DeBree, McKinney told investigators that the attack began after Shepard placed his right hand on McKinneys leg as the trio drove on Laramies east side.
Guess what. Were not gay, DeBree quoted McKinney as saying. Youre gonna get jacked. Its Gay Awareness Week.
The testimony, by Sgt. Rob Debree, came at a daylong proceeding Thursday. In the evening, Robert Denhardt, a visiting county judge, ordered Aaron McKinney, 22, to stand trial on charges of first-degree murder, robbery and kidnapping. The other suspect, Russell Henderson, 21, a friend of McKinney's, has waived his right to a preliminary hearing and is to be arraigned on the same charges Dec. 2.
Throughout the hearing, Dennis and Judy Shepard, parents of the slain student, sat stoically in Albany County Court as police witnesses provided new details about a crime that produced a national wave of anger at anti-gay violence.
Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old freshman at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, was fatally attacked a few hours after he had attended a planning meeting for Gay Awareness Week events on campus.
Debree, the lead investigator for the Albany County Sheriff's Department, testified that he conducted a taped interview with McKinney on Oct. 9, two days after the beating and three days before Shepard died in a hospital in Fort Collins, Colo. In that interview, Debree recalled, McKinney said he and Henderson had identified Shepard as a robbery target and had then lured him out of a Laramie bar and into their truck by pretending to be gay.
By McKinney's account, the detective said, the attack began after Shepard had placed his hand on McKinney's leg as they drove through Laramie. ``Guess what, we're not gay,'' the detective quoted McKinney as saying he had told Shepard. ``You're going to get jacked. It's Gay Awareness Week.''
The detective said McKinney had admitted hitting Shepard three times with fists and six times with a stolen revolver.
An autopsy found that Shepard had been hit 18 times in the head. He was also bruised on the backs of his hands, indicating that he had tried to protect himself, and around the groin, indicating that he had been kicked repeatedly.
About 18 hours after the beating, a bicyclist found him still alive, tied to a ranch fence. Reggie Fluty, an Albany County sheriff's deputy, testified Thursday that Shepard's wrists had been so tightly bound that it had been difficult to cut the rope and that his head had been covered in blood except for a clean spot ``where he'd been crying and the tears went down his face.''
A Laramie police officer, detective Ben Fritzen, testified that he had interviewed Kristen Price, McKinney's 18-year-old girlfriend. Fritzen said that in explaining the violence, McKinney had told Price, ``Well, you know how I feel about gays.''
Price and Chastity Pasley, Henderson's girlfriend, waived their right to preliminary hearings and are to be arraigned Dec. 9 as accessories after the fact.
A public defender for McKinney, Dion Custis, told the judge that the state had failed to prove that the slaying had been planned, as is required for first-degree murder, or that Shepard had been kidnapped. Custis also said a watch and other belongings left at the crime scene showed that robbery was not a factor.
But Cal Rerucha, the Albany County prosecutor, said Shepard's wallet had been found in a dirty diaper in the kitchen of the Laramie apartment shared by McKinney, Price and their 4-month-old son.
Addressing the judge, Rerucha said: ``They beat him for $20, your honor. That was the contents of the wallet.''
|links| |the crime|
|related pages| |gary's
story| |missing children| |java
pic| |trial updates| |interview| |billy gaither | |editorial|
|icq me| |e-mail me|