Tuesday, October 7, 2014

October 7, 1998 - Matthew Shepard is found tied to a buck fence near Laramie, Wyoming, his skull fractured in multiple places after being beaten, tortured, and left to die because he was gay.

Shepard remained conscious for most of the next 18 hours. Temperatures during the time he hung from the fence were near freezing. His body was tied to the fence so tightly, law enforcement officer could not undo the knots; they had to cut him down. He was beaten so brutally that his face was completely covered in blood, except where it had been partially washed clean by his tears.

Shepard was pronounced dead at 12:53 a.m. on October 12, 1998, at Poudre Valley Hospital, in Fort Collins, Colorado. He was 21 years old.

Aaron McKinney (then 22) and Russell Henderson (then 21) were both arrested for felony murder, aggravated robbery, and kidnapping. Henderson pled guilty and testified against McKinney. He received to two concurrent life sentences. McKinney was convicted of murder, and was ready to be sentenced. He was facing the death penalty -- but at the last moment, he and the Shepard family reached a plea agreement under which McKinney received two concurrent life sentences without the possibility of parole.

Under Wyoming law, only the governor can grant parole in first degree murder cases. Legal experts say Henderson has virtually no chance of parole. In 2004, Henderson sought to have his sentence reduced, arguing he was not fully apprised of his chances for an appeal. A Wyoming district court turned him down. He asked the Wyoming Supreme Court to hear his appeal, but they turned him down. He appealed in U.S. federal court, and U.S. District Judge Clarence Brimmer rejected his claim. Henderson did not ask a federal appellate court to hear his claim, and time-limits for filing an appeal now bar him from doing so. His sentence still stands.

Chasity Vera Pasley, Henderson's 21-year-old girlfriend, helped to dispose of her boyfriend's bloody clothing and provided him with a false alibi. She pled guilty to being an accessory to murder after the fact. She received a 15-to-24 month prison sentence, and was released on November 20, 1999. She served 13 months and 12 days.

Kristen Leann Price, McKinney's 18-year-old girlfriend, helped to hide McKinney's bloody clothing. She was convicted of being an accessory to murder after the fact. She was sentenced to 180 days in prison. She was released the day after her conviction; the judge noted her time already served (60 days) and suspended the rest of her sentence.

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