Words: Steve Brown
Matthew Shepard will be laid to rest in a crypt at the Washington National Cathedral, 20 years after he was brutally murdered.
On 7 October 1998, 21-year-old Matthew Shepard was found tied to a fence post, almost crucifixion-style, in a field outside Laramie, Wyoming.
Bleeding, half-frozen and shoeless, the American college student had been left to die after being beaten, tortured and repeatedly whipped around his head with a gun wielded by two men he met in a local bar then hitched a ride with.
Five days later, Matthew succumbed to his terrible injuries in a hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado.
The shocking killing is widely regarded as one of the most horrific anti-gay hate crimes in US history, with blond-haired, blue-eyed Matthew becoming the human symbol for acts of violence against the LGBT+ community.
Matthew was cremated but his funeral was picketed by protestors holding signs reading: “God hates f**s” and Fred Phelps – the anti-gay found of the Westboro Baptist Church – wanted to build a monument against him saying: “Matthew Shepard Entered Hell”.
Two decades after his brutal murder, his remains have still not been interred as his parents Judy and Dennis couldn’t find a place where they felt their son’s grave would be safe from vandals.
But this Friday, that will change as the 21-year-old will be laid to rest at the Washington National Cathedral.
Judy said: “We’ve given much thought to Matt’s final resting place, and we found the Washington National Cathedral is an ideal choice, as Matt loved the Episcopal church and felt welcomed by his church in Wyoming.
“For the past 20 years, we have shared Matt’s story with the world. It’s reassuring to know he now will rest in a sacred spot where folks can come to reflect on creating a safer, kinder world.”
Matthew will be one of nearly 200 people interred at the Cathedral including Helen Keller and former US president Woodrow Wilson.