As the 11th anniversary of the murder of gay college student Matthew Shepard nears, celebrations of his life are casting a wide net across the country.
His mother Judy Shepard, who has become a figure in his foundation and in lobbying for hate crime legislation is making appearances to talk about her book, The Meaning of Matthew. While speaking at Salt Lake City’s Main Library on Sunday, however, the mood went from celebratory to sour, when an onlooker called Shepard out from the crowd.
According to a report on Pam’s House Blend, a man in the audience took Shepard to task, saying that she was exacerbating the premises under which her son was murdered for her own political gain. He said the murderers only targeted Matthew because they wanted to rob him and were high… not because of his sexual orientation. A visibly upset Shepard, however, refuted the claim, pointing out that neither of the killers tested positive for drugs when they were picked up by the police. They also each admitted to their actions because of the flight.
Meanwhile, the creators of The Laramie Project, a play centered around Matthew Shepard’s death, are celebrating the project’s 10th year on stages across America with an epilogue, which includes a prison interview with convicted murderer Aaron McKinney.
In the jarring interview, conducted by Greg Pierotti, McKinney admits to being drawn to crime since childhood and feeling sympathy for Shepard’s family… but not for killing Matthew.
“As far as Matt is concerned, I don’t have any remorse,” McKinney is quoted as saying, according to a script acquired by the The Associated Press. He added, “Yeah, I got remorse, but probably not the way people want me to. I got remorse that I didn’t live the way my dad taught me to live.”
McKinney and his accomplice Russell Henderson approached Shepard in a bar in Laramie on October 7, 1998. They offered Shepard a ride in their car, but then they savagely beat him and left him tied to a fence. Eighteen hours later, he was found by a passing bike rider, and eventually died on October 12.
More than 1,000 actors will perform the updated version of the show when it premiers in October on the anniversary of Shepard’s death. Pierotti and other members of the Tectonic Theater Project will perform the piece at New York’s Lincoln Center while actors will stage the work at more than 100 theaters nationwide.