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Remaining Matthew Shepard murder defendant comments on case for first timeFriday June 25 04:58 PM EDT

Remaining Matthew Shepard murder defendant comments on case for first time

By Bryan Robinson, Court TV

LARAMIE, Wyo. (Court TV) —Insisting that he does not hate gay people, the man awaiting trial for the beating death of Matthew Shepard publicly commented on the case for the first time.

Aaron McKinney called a local radio station from his jail cell Thursday and said that Shepard's murder was not a hate crime. He did not address his guilt or innocence and focused on letting listeners know that he was definitely not homophobic.

"People are saying just because [Matthew Shepard] was gay that this is a hate crime, that I targeted him because he was gay," McKinney said. "I don't have anything against anybody. I don't hate gay people. I have a good friend that's gay."

McKinney also told the radio station that he was scared of being put to death and that he regretted what happened to Shepard.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against McKinney, who is scheduled to go on trial in October. Prosecutors claim McKinney and co-hort Russell Henderson were involved in the brutal slaying of Shepard last October. Henderson and McKinney, prosecutors have said, pretended to be gay, met Shepard at a bar, and lured him into the pickup truck McKinney was driving. Then they pistol-whipped him, beat him, robbed him, tied him to a fence, and left him on the freezing Wyoming plains.

Bloody and unconscious, the student, still bound to the fence, was found 18 hours later and taken to the hospital. Shepard died several days later.

Henderson pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of felony murder with robbery and kidnapping during jury selection in his trial in April. He claimed that he witnessed, but did not participate in, Shepard's murder and claimed that he did not benefit from the proceeds of the robbery.

Henderson also claimed that it was McKinney's idea to rob and beat Shepard. Henderson and his girlfriend, Chasity Pasley, may testify against McKinney at his trial.

Last month, Pasley was sentenced to 15 to 24 months in jail for her role in the attempted cover-up of Shepard's murder. Prosecutors say Pasley and Kristen Price, McKinney's girlfriend, tried to provide the defendants with alibis, threw Henderson's bloody clothes in a dumpster at Cheyenne, and hid Shepard's bloody shoes in a storage shed.

Pasley pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact to first degree murder last December. However, Price has pleaded not guilty and still faces trial.

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