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Could There Be Another Reason Besides His Sexuality That Matthew Shepard Was Murdered?

A new book by award-winning journalist Stephen Jimenez reportedly alleges the infamous murder of gay student Matthew Shepard was not due to his sexual orientation and may have instead been a result of his alleged ties to the "drug underworld."

The startling revelations come in The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths About the Murder of Matthew Shepard, which is set to be published next week.

The book reportedly claims that Shepard "died because he had been involved with Laramie's (city Shepard was killed) drug underworld rather than because he was gay."

Shepard was tortured and murdered in October 1998. During the trial, it was widely reported he was targeted because he was gay. Since his death, Shepard has become an icon for gay rights.

Jimenez uses as evidence an alleged sexual relationship Shepard had with one of his convicted killers, Aaron McKinney. This account would then raise suspicion McKinney killed Shepard out of gay panic due to sudden unwanted sexual gestures.

According to Jimenez, he came across a letter with such details.

"Basically the letter was saying that the defense raised by Aaron McKinney's defense team of 'gay panic' was false and the evidence that was cited for that was that Aaron McKinney had been a male hustler, that he was familiar with gay guys in gay bars," Jimenez told The Dish.

"It mentioned at first both Aaron and Russell, but as the letter went on it spoke more about Aaron, mentioning that he really did like having sex with gay guys, that he wasn't unfamiliar with homosexuality and the gay world," he continued.

Nonetheless, the book is already under fire.

A spokesperson for the Matthew Shepard Foundation issued a scathing criticism of this new narrative in a statement to The Huffington Post.

"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," the statement said.

"We do not respond to innuendo, rumor or conspiracy theories. Instead we recommit ourselves to honoring Matthew’s memory, and refuse to be intimidated by those who seek to tarnish it. We owe that to the tens of thousands of donors, activists, volunteers, and allies to the cause of equality who have made our work possible," it concluded.

Jimenez says the "purpose of the book is not to say hate wasn't involved."

"Once they read the book, some readers might still conclude the crime was motivated by hate – but not of the “gay panic” variety that we have come to associate with Matthew’s murder," he told The Dish.

Stephen Jimenez is an award-winning journalist, writer and producer. He was a 2012 Norman Mailer Nonfiction Fellow and has written and produced programs for ABC News 20/20, Dan Rather Reports, Nova, Fox, Court TV and others.

Follow Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) on Twitter

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