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Students Hold Candlelight Vigil in Honor of Slain Wyoming Student

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CHAPEL HILL (AP) — A homosexual student who died after being beaten and tied to a fencepost in Wyoming had recently moved from Raleigh, said his friends at the University of North Carolina.

Matthew Shepard, 21, died Monday at Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, Colo., while on life support. The University of Wyoming student had been in a coma since bicyclists found him in near-freezing temperatures Wednesday.

About 200 friends and students gathered at UNC-Chapel Hill Monday night to honor Shepard, who lived in Raleigh for about a year before moving to Wyoming a few months ago.

Kurt Scofield, who lives in Cary, told WRAL-TV that he met Shepard through his brother. Scofield said Shepard struggled with anorexia but seemed to be doing well in Wyoming.

``I'm still having a hard time comprehending what happened,'' Scofield said. ``It's hard for me to imagine why someone would do that to another human being.''

The attack has spurred calls nationwide for hate-crimes legislation protecting homosexuals. President Clinton pressed Congress to expand the federal hate-crimes law to cover offenses based on disability or sexual orientation.

Participants at Monday night's vigil signed a petition asking North Carolina legislators for tougher hate-crime laws.

Police in Wyoming said charges against the two suspects in the beating would be upgraded to first-degree murder.

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