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Mom of Slaying Suspect Found Dead

January 5, 1999

LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) _ The mother of a man charged in the beating death of gay college student Matthew Shepard apparently died of exposure along a rural road after staggering out of a downtown bar.

Cindy Thompson Dixon, 40, was found dead Sunday along a two-lane road north of town. Police questioned her husband but said there were no signs she had been beaten. The preliminary cause of death is hypothermia.

Her estranged husband, Charles E. Dixon Jr., has a history of spousal abuse and was charged with two counts of battery for allegedly beating Mrs. Dixon on Nov. 4. His preliminary hearing on the latest charges was postponed on Tuesday.

Ms. Dixon was discovered by a passerby about 8:30 a.m. She was last seen about 7 p.m. Saturday stumbling from a bar in downtown Laramie about 12 miles from where her body was found, said Albany County Sheriff’s Sgt. Rob Graham.

In subzero wind chill, she was wearing a short, pink nylon jacket over a shirt and jeans.

Authorities say Ms. Dixon had no particular reason to be out on the road, a popular area for hikers and rock climbers. They believe she was driven to the area and was making her way back to town. She died about 1,000 feet from a house driveway.

Her son, Russell Arthur Henderson, is one of two men charged with Shepard’s murder. He faces the death penalty if convicted.

Henderson and Aaron McKinney are accused of beating and robbing Shepard, a University of Wyoming student, on Oct. 7 and tying him to a split-rail fence outside Laramie. Shepard, 21, suffered 18 blows to the head and died five days after the attack.

Testimony at a November hearing indicated Shepard may have been targeted because he was gay. The attack brought condemnation from President Clinton and calls for tougher hate-crime laws. The men are scheduled to go on trial later this year.

Henderson never mentioned his mother, not even to friends he had known for 10 years. ``I asked him once where his parents were. He said his parents were dead,″ said Maggie McKinney, 23, who lived next door to Henderson.

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