My son, Matthew did not look like a winner. He was rather uncoordinated and wore braces from the age of 13 until the day he died. However, in his all-too-brief life, he proved that he was a winner. On October 6th, 1998, my son tried to show the world that he could win again. On October 12th, 1998, my first born son and my hero lost. On October 12th, 1998, my first born son and my hero died, 50 days before his 22nd birthday. I keep wondering the same thing that I did when I first saw him in the hospital. What would he have become? How could he have changed his piece of the world to make it better? Matt officially died in a hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado. He actually died on the outskirts of Laramie, tied to a fence. You, Mr. McKinney, with your friend Mr. Henderson, left him there by himself. But he was not alone. There were his lifelong friends with him, friends that he had grown up with. You’re probably wondering who these friends were. First, he had the beautiful night sky and the same stars and moon we used to see through a telescope. Then he had the daylight and the sun to shine on him. And through it all, he was breathing in the scent of the pine trees from the snowy range. He heard the wind, the ever-present Wyoming wind for the last time. He had one more friend with him. He had God. And I feel better, knowing he wasn’t alone. Matt’s beating, hospitalization, and funeral focused worldwide attention on hate. Good is coming out of evil. People have said, ‘Enough is enough.’ I miss my son, but I am proud to be able to say that he was my son. Judy has been quoted as being against the death penalty. It has been stated that Matt was against the death penalty. Both of these statements are wrong. I too believe in the death penalty. I would like nothing better than to see you die, Mr. McKinney. However, this is the time to begin the healing process, to show mercy to someone who refused to show any mercy. Mr. McKinney, I am going to grant you life, as hard as it is to do so, because of Matthew. Everytime you celebrate Christmas, a birthday, the 4th of July, remember that Matt isn’t. Everytime that you wake up in your prison cell, remember you had the opportunity and the ability to stop your actions that night. You robbed me of something very precious and I will never forgive you for that. Mr. McKinney, I give you life in the memory of someone who no longer lives. May you have a long life. And may you thank Matthew everyday for it.
The Laramie Project, Dennis Shepard