11:05 AM EDT, October 7, 2013
The shockingly brutal murder of young, gay college student stunned the world in 1998.
It's now almost 15 years to the date that Matthew Shepard was lashed to a fence outside Laramie, Wyoming, and beaten unconscious. He would linger on life support for four days before he died.
To many, the slight young man with blonde hair and a shy smile came to be regarded as a gay martyr. At his funeral, Matthew's parents thanked people who were touched by the tragedy.
At the funeral, his father said, "A person as caring and loving as our son would be overwhelmed by what this incident has done to the hearts and souls of people around the world."
For prosecutors, it seemed a fairly cut and dry case. Two strangers killed Shepard because he was gay. Their defense was labeled the "gay panic" defense. They attacked him after they claimed he made unwanted sexual advances.
Stephen Jimenez's is the author of The Book Of Matt: Hidden Truths About The Murder Of Matthew Shepard. He claims that one of Matthew's killers, Aaron McKinney knew Matthew very well. In the book, Jimenez says the two young men even had a sexual relationship.
Jimenez told INSIDE EDITION's Les Trent, "The initial story was that they were strangers, and that they had lured him out of the bar and wanted to teach him a lesson, not to come on to straight people. Eventually, I found a very different story."
"Aaron McKinney was struggling with his sexuality. He was closeted," stated Jimenez.
Jimenez also makes the bombshell claims that McKinney and Mathew Shepard were male prostitutes working for the same pimp. And it doesn't end there. He says Matthew Shepard was a meth dealer. Jimenez says the real reason for the murder was drugs and money, not gay bashing.
"As soon as that story went out, almost overnight, within just a matter of a couple of days, it spread like wildfire and any attempt to pull that back in, at that point, was, I think, going to be hopeless," said Jimenez.
Trent asked, "Did the drug connection with Matthew ever come up during the trial?
"No, it never came up," replied Jimenez.
The death of Matthew Shepard has even been made into a movie. Shane Meier portrayed Shepard in a 2002 movie that also starred Stockard Channing as his mother.
INSIDE EDITION reached out to the parents of Matthew Shepard. They directed us to the foundation named after him which released this statement:
"Attempts now to rewrite the story of this hate crime appear to be based on untrustworthy sources, factual errors, rumors and innuendo, rather than the actual evidence gathered by law enforcement and presented in a court of law. We remain committed to honoring Matthew's memory, and refuse to be intimidated by those who seek to tarnish it."
Trent asked, "Aren't you betraying the memory of Matthew Shepard?"
"I don't see it that way," replied Jimenez.
Still, the book is getting slammed by some people who see it as another attack on a young man who can't fight back.
An attorney for one of the convicted killers, Aaron McKinney, tells INSIDE EDITION that this was not a hate crime, adding that his client is not gay and that McKinney had no prior relationship with Matthew Shepard before the murder.