Twenty years ago today, on October 12, 1998, Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard died after being beaten, burned and tied to a fence because he was gay — an incident that led to the gay rights movement.
Since then, his parents Dennis and Judy — who have flown more than 2 million miles and visited 25 countries and 49 states advocating for LGBTQ rights and stronger hate-crime laws — have held onto their son’s ashes.
But not anymore, Spiel News..com has learned, as Mathew’s remains will be laid to rest on October 26 at the Washington National Cathedral.
“When Matt was taken from us, we hadn’t had any death or plots plans. We didn’t want to leave him in Wyoming to be a point of pilgrimage that may be a nuisance to other families in a cemetery. We didn’t want to open up the option for vandalism,” Matthew’s father, Dennis, said in a statement released by the Matthew Shepard Foundation — a non-profit that was pivotal in the creation of Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which made it a federal crime to assault an individual because of their sexual orientation.
“So we had him cremated and held onto the urn until we figured out the proper thing to do. We are happy that we now have a home for our son, a place that he himself would love,” Dennis said.
As those familiar with the sad situation know, Matthew died at a hospital in Colorado five days after he was bludgeoned by the back end of a pistol in Wyoming by 21-year-old high school dropouts, Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney. When he was discovered by a bicyclist strung up on a fence, Matthew was unrecognizable, as his entire face was covered in blood, with the exception of two white lines running down his cheeks from where his tears ran dry.
Henderson and McKinney, were later convicted of first-degree murder and are both serving life sentences, without the possibility of parole.