The Laramie Project

The Laramie Project

Russell Henderson Character Analysis

Russell Henderson is a nineteen-year-old Laramie Resident and one of Matthew Shepard’s murderers. Russell pleads guilty to participating in Matthew’s murder, driving the truck in which Aaron McKinney beat Matthew and then tying him to the fence to die. Russell Henderson purportedly had a troubled family life as a child. Russell was a member of the Church of Latter Day Saints before he is excommunicated from the church for his crimes. Russell and Aaron both become the center of debates between townspeople about who exactly is to blame for Russell and Aaron’s homophobia and whether violence could possibly be the proper punishment for their crimes.

Russell Henderson Quotes in The Laramie Project

The The Laramie Project quotes below are all either spoken by Russell Henderson or refer to Russell Henderson. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Dramatists Play Service edition of The Laramie Project published in 2001.
Act 2: Live and Let Live Quotes

Some people are saying he made a pass at them. You don’t pick up regular people. I’m not excusing their actions, but it made me feel better because it was partially Matthew Shepard’s fault and partially the guys who did it… you know maybe it’s fifty-fifty.

Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:
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Act 2: Seeing Matthew Quotes

And quite frankly I wanted to lash out at somebody. Not at Matthew, please understand that, not one of us was mad at Matthew. But we maybe wanted to squeeze McKinney’s head off. And I think about Henderson. And, you know, two absolutely human beings cause so much grief for so many people.

Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:
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Act 2: Lifestyle 2 Quotes

Now, those two people, the accused… I think they deserve the death penalty…Now as for the victim, I know that that lifestyle is legal, but I will tell you one thing. I hope that Matthew Shepard as he was tied to that fence that he had time to reflect on a moment when someone had spoken the word of the Lord to him—and that before he slipped into a coma he had a chance to reflect on his lifestyle.

Related Symbols: The Fence
Page Number: 67-68
Explanation and Analysis:
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Act 3: Snow Quotes

I decided that someone needed to stand toe to toe with this guy and show the differences. And I think at time like this when we’re talking about hatred as much as the nation is right now, that someone needs to show, that there is a better way of dealing with that kind of hatred. So our idea is to dress up like angels.

Related Characters: Romaine Patterson (speaker), Russell Henderson, Reverend Fred Phelps
Page Number: 73
Explanation and Analysis:
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Act 3: A Death Penalty Case Quotes

I think right now our most important teachers must be Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney. They have to be our teachers. How did you learn? What did we as a society do to teach you that? See, I don’t know if many people will let them be their teacher. I think it would be wonderful if the judge said, “In addition to your sentence, you must tell your story.”

Related Characters: Father Roger Schmit (speaker), Aaron McKinney, Russell Henderson
Page Number: 79
Explanation and Analysis:
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Russell Henderson Character Timeline in The Laramie Project

The timeline below shows where the character Russell Henderson appears in The Laramie Project. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1: The Fireside
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Matt Galloway says that on that night at around eleven forty-five, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, Matthew’s murderers, came into the bar looking unkempt and acting rude. They bought a... (full context)
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
Matt Galloway says he saw Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson talking to Matthew Shepard after they came back into the main part of the... (full context)
Theater and Representation Theme Icon
...that he saw Matthew leave with two people he presumed to be Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson. Matt Mickelson then tells the interviewers to talk with the DJ, Shadow, who was... (full context)
Act 1: McKinney and Henderson
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
...tried to act cool, he was actually just a scared kid. Next, the narrator introduces Russell Henderson’s landlord Sherry Aanenson. Sherry describes Russell as “sweet” and says she was shocked to... (full context)
Act 1: Finding Matthew Shepard
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Aaron Kreifels describes finding Matthew Shepard tied to the fence where Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson left him to die. Aaron Kreifels had gone for a bike ride the evening... (full context)
Act 2: A Laramie Man
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
Media and Community Theme Icon
...Mickelson and Matt Galloway decide to go to the arraignment to identify Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson. (full context)
Act 2: The Essential Facts
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
A reporter states that Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson have been charged with assaulting Matthew Shepard. Catherine Connolly then describes how she walked... (full context)
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
Media and Community Theme Icon
The judge states that Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson met Matthew Shepard at the bar and then drove him to the fence, where... (full context)
Act 2: Live and Let Live
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Prejudice Theme Icon
...is partially to blame for his own death because he came onto Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson. Murdock says that believing this makes him “feel better.” (full context)
Act 2: The Gem City of the Plains
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Media and Community Theme Icon
Theater and Representation Theme Icon
...just as many bigots as New York or California. Another newsperson describes Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson’s poverty growing up. Another reporter insists that hatred like what happened to Matthew Shepard... (full context)
Act 2: Seeing Matthew
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
The narrator gives the audience an update on the case against Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, stating that they both pled not guilty. Their girlfriends were charged with accessory to... (full context)
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
...how he worked extremely hard to make sure there was no way Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson could be acquitted. Then Reggie Fluty, one of the first responders on the scene,... (full context)
Act 2: Shannon and Jen
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
...robbing someone. Jen agrees, saying that Aaron had done that kind of thing before with Russell Henderson, though they usually targeted people who looked rich, not gay people specifically. Stephen Belber... (full context)
Act 2: Lifestyle 2
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Prejudice Theme Icon
...part of the congregation. The minister says that the congregation had been trying to help Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney for years, and he is providing spiritual guidance to one of... (full context)
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Prejudice Theme Icon
The Baptist Minister notes that he thinks Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson deserve the death penalty. The minister also says, however, that he hopes that as... (full context)
Act 2: H-O-P-E
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
...this moment, Stephen Belber tells Doc O’Connor that the interview team will be back for Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney’s criminal trials. Doc O’Connor states that he hopes they don’t put... (full context)
Act 3: Snow
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Prejudice Theme Icon
...narrator states that, six months after the funeral, the company went back to Laramie for Russell Henderson’s trial, where Fred Phelps was also protesting. Romaine Patterson, who was a friend of... (full context)
Act 3: Jury Selection
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
During jury selection for Russell Henderson’s trial, Trish Steger describes how people came into her shop and expressed their fear... (full context)
Act 3: Russell Henderson
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
During Russell Henderson’s trial, the judge asks Russell if he would like to change his plea, and... (full context)
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Lucy Thompson, Russell’s grandmother and former guardian, makes a statement. She offers her sympathies to the Shepard family... (full context)
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
The judge then invites Russell Henderson to make a statement. Russell expresses his regret and his sympathy for the Shepard... (full context)
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Prejudice Theme Icon
After the hearing, the company spoke with Russell’s Mormon Home Teacher. She notes that she has known Russell Henderson for his entire life,... (full context)
Act 3: A Death Penalty Case
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
Theater and Representation Theme Icon
...of putting him to death. Father Roger talks about the importance of learning lessons from Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney and letting them be society’s “teachers.” Father Roger hopes that part... (full context)
Act 3: Aaron McKinney
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
...to remain silent. He asks Aaron about his trip to Fireside Bar, where he and Russell Henderson met Matthew Shepard. Aaron tells him that they gave “a kid” a ride home,... (full context)
Act 3: Aaron McKinney (continued)
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
...and six times with his pistol, while Matthew begged him to stop. Rob asks if Russell Henderson dragged him to the fence and tied him up after that, but Aaron says... (full context)
Act 3: Dennis Shepard’s Statement
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Prejudice Theme Icon
...officially died in the hospital, he truly died tied the fence after Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson’s attack. However, Dennis says, Matthew was not alone, thanks to God and thanks to... (full context)
Act 3: Epilogue
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
...that meaningful change did not occur in Laramie. Jonas believes that, once Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson were convicted, the townspeople stopped talking about Matthew’s death. Jonas notes that, in the... (full context)