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Henderson Pleads Guilty in Matthew Shepard Murder

Russell Henderson pleaded guilty to murdering and kidnapping University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard and was sentenced to two consecutive life terms in prison yesterday. Henderson’s attorney Wyatt Skaggs reported that he and Albany County Prosecutor Cal Rerucha negotiated a plea bargain late last week to avoid a possible death sentence.

Henderson and an accomplice allegedly lured the 5 foot 2 inch, 105lb. Shepard from a bar, robbed him, drove him to a deserted area, beat him repeatedly with a pistol, strung him up on a fence, and finally left him to die in the frigid Wyoming air.

When asked whether Henderson’s punishment was just, Prosecutor Rerucha replied, “Mr. and Mrs. Shepard will go home without their son. You tell me what justice is in this case.” Mother Judy Shepard said of Matthew, “He was my son, my first born, but more, he was my friend, my confidant, my constant reminder of how good life can be.”

Henderson admitted to playing a role in Shepard’s death but has denied actually killing him. He claimed that his accomplice, Aaron McKinney was responsible for the deadly beating. McKinney’s trial is scheduled for August.

Sources:

Washington Post - April 6, 1999