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US

Clinton urges tougher hate-crime law after gay student attacked

October 10, 1998
Web posted at: 11:00 p.m. EDT (0300 GMT)

FORT COLLINS, Colorado (CNN)-- President Clinton asked the nation Saturday to join him in praying for Matthew Shepard, a gay student at the University of Wyoming who was critically injured this week in a brutal beating.

Surgeons at Poudre Valley Hospital said the 21-year-old man, who suffered severe head injuries and had been left to die, was "incrementally worse off" Saturday than he was 24 hours ago.

Poudre Valley Health System CEO Rulon Stacey said Shepard was not brain dead but had suffered damage to his brain stem, which controls heartbeat, temperature and other involuntary body functions. Shepard, who is 5-foot-2 and weighs 105 pounds, was breathing with the aid of a ventilator.

A passerby found Shepard tied a wooden fence, after he had been abandoned in near-freezing temperatures for 12 hours. Shepard was admitted to the hospital late Wednesday suffering from hypothermia, welts, abrasions and a fractured skull.

Stacey said Shepard received a massive blow to the right side of head, which compressed his skull into the brain.

Shepard's parents have been at his side since arriving from Saudi Arabia on Friday.

Gingrich calls beating 'horrifying'

Clinton issued a statement Saturday saying he was "deeply grieved" by the violence. He called the beating a hate crime and said the Justice Department was keeping him informed about the investigation by local authorities.

The president said it was not too late for Congress to make all Americans feel safer by passing the Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

Shepard Aid Fund

The parents of beating victim Matthew Shepard have set up a fund to aid their son. Contributions for Account #1926083 can be sent to:

Matthew Shepard Fund First National Bank Box 578 Fort Collins, Colorado 80522

He said the act would strengthen and expand the ability of the Justice Department to prosecute such crimes by removing jurisdictional obstacles and allowing for the prosecution of hate crimes committed because of the victim's sexual orientation, gender or disability.

House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Americans should be vigilant against violence of any kind. He called Shepard's beating "horrifying," and said no person should suffer such inhuman savagery.

"This heinous crime deserves the condemnation of all Americans," House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, D- Missouri, said.

The Family Research Council, a conservative Christian group in Washington that has lobbied Congress to reject gay-rights legislation, also condemned the attack.

Victim lured from campus bar

The alleged assailants, Russell Arthur Henderson, 21, and Aaron James McKinney, 22, were charged Friday with attempted first-degree murder, kidnapping and aggravated robbery. They were being held on $100,000 bond each.

Chastity Vera Pasley, 20, was charged with being an accessory to the crime. Kristen Leann Price, 18, was arrested for investigation of being an accessory but had not been charged.

Police say the two men lured Shepard from a campus bar in Laramie, Wyoming, late Tuesday or early Wednesday by telling him they were gay.

The three allegedly drove off in McKinney's truck, where Shepard was beaten. Later, the assailants tied him to the fence and beat him some more, police said. The victim also was pistol-whipped.

Police Commander Dave O'Malley said the two women helped the male suspects dump their bloody clothes, and said the two men made anti-gay remarks to them.

 
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