Two decades after he was brutally beaten and left to die tied to a split-rail wood fence in Laramie, Wyoming, Matthew Shepard will finally be laid to rest.
Out of fear his final resting place would become a target, Shepard's family cremated rather than buried the 21-year-old. In a ceremony on October 26, Shepard's ashes will be placed in a niche in the crypt columbarium, a private, off-limits area on the lower level of the Washington National Cathedral. Shepherd will be one of around 200 people interred at the cathedral in the last century, including President Woodrow Wilson and Helen Keller.
"I think it's the perfect, appropriate place," Dennis Shepard, Matthew’s father, said in an interview to the NYTimes. "We are, as a family, happy and relieved that we now have a final home for Matthew, a place that he himself would love."
Mr. Shepard told the outlet they considered spreading his ashes over the mountains and plains of Wyoming, but still wanted a place they could visit to talk to him. At the cathedral, not only will Matthew's loved ones be able to visit him, visitors from around the world can, too.
"It's a place where there's an actual chance for others to sit and reflect about Matthew, and about themselves, and about their friends," Mr. Shepard said.
Although visitors will not be able to access the crypt, according to the NYTimes, Cathedral officials are considering installing a plaque that they can view and touch, similar to one in braille installed for Keller.
The Oct. 26 service will be open to the public and will be presided over by Washington’s Episcopal bishop, Mariann Edgar Budde, and the first openly gay Bishop Gene Robinson.
Pistol whipped by Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson and left to die, Shepard was found 18 hours later by a bicyclist who thought his limp body was a scarecrow. Shepard died a few days later, on October 12, 1998.
In October 2009, the United States Congress passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, and on October 28, 2009, President Barack Obama signed the legislation into law.