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Sunday, October 7, 2007

THE LAST DAYS OF MATTHEW SHEPARD


In the wee hours of this morning in 1998: Matthew Shepard is now a passenger in the truck of Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson. McKinney pulls out a .357 magnum and demands Shepard's wallet, telling him "Guess what? We're not gay. And you're going to get jacked!" Shepard refuses to give in, and is pistol-whipped by McKinney. Henderson laughs as the beating continues after they arrive at an isolated field a mile outside of Laramie. Shepard begs for his life. Henderson is told to go get a rope out of the truck and tie theirvictim's hands to a wooden split-rail post fence, but he momentarily refuses, and is punched in the face by McKinney. Shepard is finally tethered to the post, McKinney finally stealsShepard's wallet with a sum of $20, and continues thrashing his captive. Once enough damage is done (a total of eighteen blows to the head, which crushes Shepard's skull), Henderson and McKinney drive back into town. If he can hear anything above of his own cries, it is the whistling of a freezing 30-degree wind. By sunrise Shepard, bleeding profusely, will be slipping into a coma. Bicyclist Aaron Kreifels happens upon Shepard by chance around 6:30 PM, when he slips and falls near the end of the fence. He's shocked at firstby the sight of a scarecrow, and even more shocked that the bloody Matthew Shepard is alive, if breathing hard "as if his lungs are full of blood." Kreifels makes it to the home of a nearby professor to call 911 and then the two then returns to Shepard and waited for the police to arrive. Cut free, Shepard is taken by ambulance to Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins where doctors discover that his brain stem is seriously damaged, critically impairing his heartbeat, breathing and temperature control. They are unable to operate, but do insert a drain in Shepard's skull to reduce the pressure on his swollen brain. A ventilator helps him continue breathing, for now. Around midnight, his blood pressure drops. McKinney and Henderson are arrested tonight, after getting into a fight with two other men in Laramie, one of who requires extensive treatment from severe head wounds. Henderson is nabbed trying to outrun a police officer, and McKinney gets cuffed shortly thereafter. The two are soonnamed as suspects in Shepard's beating and will be charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping and aggravated robbery.

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