The following is a timeline of the specific events, beginning October 6 and ending October 16, 1998, surrounding Matthew Shepard’s beating and death, the actions of his killers, and the immediate community and national response.
Tuesday, October 6, 1998
After a meeting of the LGBTA to discuss preparations for Coming Out Day celebrations scheduled for October 11, Matthew goes to The Fireside Bar where he meets Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson. The three men leave together sometime between 11pm and Midnight.
Wednesday, October 7, 1998
- Between Midnight and 12:30am, Aaron and Russell assault Matthew, take his wallet, drive him out to a buck fence at the end of a long route that is at the edge of town, running through the enclave of Sherman Hills Estates, which includes pricey real estate for Laramie (houses range $145,000 to $415,000). In 1998 Laramie’s population is just under 27,000 and has a median household income of $26,559.
- Aaron and Russell continue an assault on Matthew that began once they left the bar, beating him with their fists and the butt of a .357 Magnum pistol. They secure his hands to the fence, take his shoes, and leave him. They head back into Laramie to sell their gun and perhaps find and rob Matthew’s empty apartment. On the way they encounter Jeremy Herrera and Emiliano Morales slashing tires. The four begin to fight. Aaron hits Emiliano in the head with the same gun with which he beat Matthew.
- At 12:45am the Laramie Police department receives a call reporting a disturbance and vandalism near Matthew’s apartment. When they arrive at the scene, all four men flee. Police apprehend Russell and upon search of Aaron’s truck parked nearby they find the bloody gun, a black leather shoe, and a credit card with Matthew’s name on the dash. Russell is taken to Ivinson Memorial Hospital for treatment,
- Between 1 and 1:30am, Aaron arrives home covered in blood and tells his girlfriend Kristen Price one version of the night’s two crimes. He gives her Matthew’s wallet, which she hides in one of their year-old son’s dirty diapers.
- Between 2-2:30am, Emiliano Morales arrives at Ivinson Memorial Hospital seeking treatment for the injury he received from Aaron. The head wound requires 21 staples.
- Around 3am Russell is cited for interfering with police and released from police custody. His girlfriend Chastity Pasley and Aaron’s girlfriend Kristen Price pick him up.
- 5pm: Aaron comes to Ivinson Hopsital suffering from a head injury obtained during the fight with Morales.
- Around 6pm, Aaron Kriefels, another University of Wyoming student falls during a bike ride on the dirt trails outside Laramie and uncovers the barely conscious body of Matthew, so badly disfigured and still that he initially mistakes it for a Halloween decoration. Kriefels runs to the nearest house (at least a couple of miles away) to use a phone.
- 6:22pm: The Sherriff’s Department receives Kriefels’ 911 call. Deputy Reggie Fluty is the first to arrive on the scene at the fence followed by Detective Rob DeBree.
- 7:04pm: Fluty and DeBree escort Matthew to Ivinson Memorial. Matthew’s university ID card identifies him and gives police an emergency contact number. When they arrive at Ivinson, DeBree notices Aaron McKinney’s truck parked in the hospital lot.
- 8pm: Matthew is transferred to Poudre Valley Hospital in Ft. Collins CO.
- 8:45pm: Rob DeBree conducts his first informal interview with Kristen Price and Aaron before the young man is transported to Poudre Valley for treatment. Aaron claims someone stole his vehicle while he was with Russell at a different Laramie bar. The Laramie police seize the truck as evidence.
- Around 10pm Kristen Price, who has also been informally questioned by DeBree at the hospital as she waited on Aaron, calls Chastity and Russell for a ride home. The three of them drive to Cheyenne to dispose of Russell’s bloody clothes.
Thursday, October 8, 1998
- 4am: friends of Matthew identify the black leather shoes found in Aaron’s truck as belonging to Matthew.
- 5am: Ivinson Memorial Hospital ER physician Dr. Cantway calls Judy and Dennis Shepard in Dharham, Saudi Arabia and notifies them of Matthew’s admission and the severity of his condition that has required his transport to Poudre Valley. They book the first flight back to Wyoming, a 20-hour trip.
- 7:46am: Russell, Chastity and Kristin are picked up by DeBree and other deputies and brought in for questioning. Russell asks for a lawyer.
- Between 9am and 1pm, Kristen and Chastity reveal what they know about Matthew’s beating and their part in the cover-up.
- 1:25pm: police find Russell’s bloodstained sneakers at Chastity’s mother’s house.
- 4:30pm: A search warrant gives officers access to Aaron and Kristin’s house where they find Matthew’s wallet, driver’s license and Aaron’s bloody clothes.
- Local news affiliates report on the discovery of Matthew’s body and the circumstances surrounding his assault.
- Around 9-10pm: Aaron is released from Poudre Valley Hospital and immediately taken into custody by the Laramie Police Department.
Friday, October 9, 1998
- National news affiliates pick up the story of Matthew’s beating.
- 10:40am: DeBree begins his official interrogation of Aaron, who confesses later that morning.
- Mid-day: The Shepard family arrives in Ft. Collins. Matthew is in a coma, his breathing assisted by a ventilator. When discussing what measures are possible for their son, they express to the attending doctors that Matthew was an organ donor and are told for the first time of their son’s HIV status.
- Afternoon: Aaron, Russell, and Chastity are arraigned in the Albany County courtroom. Aaron and Russell are charged with three counts of kidnapping, aggravated robbery, and attempted first-degree murder.
Saturday, October 10, 1998
The University of Wyoming homecoming parade features an impromptu ending procession behind a yellow banner with three green circles (symbols of peace created by the school’s United Multicultural Center) in honor of Matthew. By the end of the parade route an estimated 500-800 participants had joined this part of the march.
Before the afternoon’s football game, a moment of silence for Matthew was held and players had the UMC’s green circles emblazoned on their helmets.
Sunday, October 11, 1998
Candlelight vigils for Matthew are held across the US.
In Laramie, Father Roger Schmit organizes a vigil at the U of WY’s Newman Catholic Center. U of WY President Phil DuBois speaks to the assembled crowd of about 1000.
Monday, October 13, 1998
At 12:53am: Matthew dies without ever regaining consciousness.
Flag are flown at half-staff on the U of WY campus. Gay Awareness Week events begin.
Wednesday, October 14, 1998
The Human Rights Campaign holds a candlelight vigil on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Speakers include Ellen DeGeneres, Senator Ted Kennedy. Wyoming’s two senators – Craig Thomas and Michael Enzi – do not attend.
Thursday, October 15, 1998
The US House of Representatives passes House Resolution 597 condemning Matthew’s murder. Five days later, Senators John Kerry (MA) and Patty Murray (WA) urge their colleagues to pass the Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Republicans defeat any motion to move forward on federal hate crime legislation. Despite the attention surrounding Matthew’s murder, for the next ten year no federal legislation (or WY state legislation) is passed to include sexual orientation or gender identity/expression as protected categories, which would allow prosecutors the ability to secure federal funds and greater criminal penalties for crimes motivated by homophobia.
Casper City Council meets in special session to pass an ordinance to ban demonstrations on public property within fifty feet of a funeral service.
Friday, October 16, 1998
Matthew’s funeral is held at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Casper, WY.
Members of Kansas’ Westboro Baptist Church, lead by the Reverend Fred Phelps, arrive in Wyoming and, from a roped off area across the street from the church, shout and attempt to antagonize the 1000+ mourners in attendance. Some members of the crowd sing “Amazing Grace” in order to drown out Phelps’ group.
Primary sources consulted:
- The Meaning of Matthew: My Son’s Murder in Laramie and a world transformed by Judy Shepard (2009).
- The Whole World Was Watching: Living in the Light of Matthew Shepard by Romaine Patterson (2005).
- Losing Matt Shepard: Life and Politics in The Aftermath of Anti-Gay Murder by Beth Loffreda (2001).
- National coverage of the case, trial, and play from The New York Times, Vanity Fair, Harper’s Magazine, OUT, and The Advocate and other national television news outlets.
- Local coverage by Laramie Boomerang, The Denver Post, The Wyoming Tribune-Eagle, and the Casper Star-Tribune among others.