20 years ago this weekend, Matthew Shepard encountered Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson at the Fireside bar in Laramie. McKinney told police that he noticed that Shepard had money and decided to rob him. He admitted that he thought Shepard would be an easy target because he was small in stature and appeared to be gay.
McKinney told law enforcement authorities that he convinced Shepard to join them by claiming that he was gay. Henderson told police that he drove while McKinney spoke to Shepard in a feminine voice. But McKinney said Shepard put his hand near his genitals which enraged him. He told Shepard he was being robbed and demanded his wallet. He punched Shepard and started hitting him with a .357 magnum handgun and directed Henderson to what was then an abandoned area next to the Sherman Hills subdivision on the east side of town. Shepard was tied to a fence, beaten and left alone.
Eventually, Shepard died and McKinney and Henderson would face a number of charges including murder. The prosecutor initially sought the death penalty in the case, but the Shepard's asked that the death penalty be withdrawn after McKinney was convicted.