The parents of slain college student Matthew Shepard interceded to save the life of his killer, brokering an eleventh-hour deal that will send Aaron McKinney to prison for life while sparing him the death penalty.
Addressing McKinney, Shepard said: "I would like nothing better than to see you die, Mr. McKinney. However, this is the time to begin the healing process. To show mercy to someone who refused to show any mercy. Mr. McKinney, I am going to grant you life, as hard as it is for me to do so, because of Matthew."
A jury had earlier convicted the former roofer of felony murder, aggravated robbery and kidnapping in the October 1998 beating death of Shepard, a University of Wyoming student. McKinney and an accomplice, Russell Henderson, lured Shepard from a local bar, robbed him, beat him with the butt of a pistol and left him tied to a range fence on a wind-swept prairie. Shepard was not discovered for 18 hours, and he died days later in a Colorado hospital, having never regained consciousness.