Not according to author Stephen Jimenez who has spent 13 years researching the case and interviewing all the principle players. Jimenez says that even though everyone thinks the murder was an anti-gay hate crime, the facts of the case don't lead to that conclusion. But the public doesn't know the facts. That's because key information has been covered up by the murderers, witnesses, and even law enforcement. The real motive behind the Matthew Shepard murder was drugs and money, but admitting that in the beginning would have put those in the Wyoming drug "family" at risk.
Turns out, Wyoming had, and still has, a large methamphetamine drug culture. Back in the late '90s, it wasn't something that law enforcement was actively trying to minimize. Some cops were even involved in the drug culture, and according to Jimenez, seems that the murderers, their friends, and even Matthew Shephard were part of that drug culture, too. But when the media picked up on the perceived but not confirmed anti-gay hate crime motive, that's what took off and became the popular consensus even before anyone went to trial.
I have to say, this book was very interesting and well-researched. Despite 20/20 doing a story about this back in 2004, it's not something that gets a lot of coverage. I had no idea that anyone felt there was more to the story of Matthew Shepard than what had been reported at the time of his murder.
Initially, I was a little nervous and skeptical about reading this book because I was afraid it might get a little crazy, be a little too conspiracy theorist-y, and denigrate the memory of Matthew Shepard. But after reading the book, I don't think it's any of that. Although, there are some people who do, and if you do a Google search for this book, numerous news articles pop up about this book "causing an uproar". Ultimately, I think this is a book that you can't comment on unless you read it for yourself.
Stephen Jimenez has no hidden agenda for putting all this information out there. He's a gay man himself who felt "a moral imperative to tell Matthew's story". He's not saying that the murder was any less heinous. It was still a terrible murder and one that should not have happened. But was "gay panic" the motive behind the crime? All Jimenez is trying to do with his research and his book is uncover the truth, which is what any good journalist would do, no matter the consequences.
The Book of Matt is published by Steerforth Press and is available to purchase now. I received a free advance review copy for my honest review.