So what are you implying? Do you think that gay hate crimes never occur?http://abcnews.go.com/m/story? id=277685
But as the push for gay rights found new force, so did a corresponding backlash from anti-gay opponents who came from out of state to grab a piece of the media spotlight.
Tensions were so high that Shepard's father wore a bulletproof vest under his suit when he spoke at his son's funeral service.
"The saddest part of this whole case was at Matthew's funeral, when they, these people, refused to let Matthew be buried with dignity," said Rerucha. "I never saw people that could hate so much."
Killers Both Receive Two Consecutive Life Sentences
Local residents Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, both 21 at the time, were charged with Shepard's murder. Henderson's case came before the court first. To avoid the possibility of receiving the death penalty, he pleaded guilty to murder and kidnapping and received two consecutive life terms in prison.
McKinney's case went to trial a year after Shepard's death. He was convicted of felony murder, aggravated robbery and kidnapping. Before the jury was about to decide his sentence, he, too, reached a deal that allowed him to avoid a possible death penalty. Both men are serving double life sentences in prison.
Authorities asked "20/20" not to disclose the prison location.
While McKinney and Henderson admit to killing Shepard, both men -- and the man who prosecuted the case -- now say the real story is not what it seemed.
Many area residents were shocked that the crime was committed by two young men from their community. But both McKinney and Henderson came from classically troubled backgrounds.
Henderson was born to a teenage alcoholic and raised without a father. He says he saw his mother being beaten up by a series of boyfriends, some of whom also assaulted Henderson.
McKinney's childhood, too, was less than picture-perfect. His father, a long-haul trucker, was rarely home and eventually divorced McKinney's mother, a nurse who later died as a result of a botched surgery. McKinney received a malpractice settlement of nearly $100,000 after his mother's death. He says he spent most of that money on things like cars and drugs.
McKinney admits to Vargas that by the time he was 18 he had a serious methamphetamine habit.
Maybe I was dreaming that time that a group of thugs surrounded my partner and I at a local swimming hole--calling us "fags" and telling us that we'd better get the fuck out of the river.
See, I had the audacity to carry his inner-tube up the river for him while we were out tubing on the river. It's not like we were walking hand-in-hand, kissing, or anything. But we weren't in hiding either. I was just being a gentleman to my partner.
It was our first get-away as a couple. We'd gone up the night before and planned on staying the weekend at a nice hotel. But the experience ruined our trip. We packed up and left that afternoon.
That was about 23 years ago. I've grown a lot since. I won't back down if someone threatens me. It kind of helps that I'm bigger than almost everybody.
Nevertheless, hate crimes do occur. Don't kid yourself for one minute.