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As the 11th anniversary of the murder of gay 21-year-old 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 very public LGBT advocate both through her work in the Matthew Shepard Foundation and in lobbying for hate-crimes legislation, is making appearances to talk about her new book, The Meaning of Matthew. But the mood went from celebratory to sour at the main branch of the Salt Lake City Public Library on Sunday when Shepard was verbally attacked by an onlooker amid 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 used the "gay panic" defense.
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 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 and drove him to a rural area of Laramie, where they then savagely beat him and left him tied to a fence. Eighteen hours later he was found, comatose, by a passing bike rider; he was taken to a hospital, where he remained in a coma until he was pronounced dead on October 12.
More than 1,000 actors will perform the updated version of the show when it premieres 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 others will stage the work at more than 100 theaters nationwide.