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20 years after the brutal murder of their gay son, Matthew Shepard’s parents share his life in Washington

WASHINGTON (Gray DC) — This month marks 20 years since the high profile murder of a gay Casper, WY native, Matthew Shepard. The 21-year-old University of Wyoming student’s death sparked national outrage and conversation surrounding hate crimes in the U.S. LGBTQ groups are working to remember his legacy. Shepard’s parents are shining a bright light on the life of their son. Some of Shepard’s belongings now belong to guests of the National Museum of American History.

“We’re just thrilled that they would be interested in what we had of Matt. We just hope they can put it to use to help protect other kids,” said Dennis Shepard, Matthew’s son.

Shepard was taken from Dennis and his wife Judy in October, 1998. Attackers targeted the young gay man and brutally beat him. The injuries were so horrific that he died.

October is LGBTQ History Month in the U.S. Our nation’s capital is celebrating folks like Matthew making sure fellow Americans never forget what happened.

“I think he’d be so proud to be here. He just loved museums and history, and now he’s apart of it. It’s just incredible,” said Judy.

The Shepard’s joined a packed house at the Smithsonian Thursday, showing off their son’s favorite items, like his childhood Superman cape, schoolwork, and a preschool diploma. They reminisced about the best of times in Wyoming.

Despite progress over the years, Dennis says there is still work to be done for the LGBTQ community in Wyoming.

“There’s a brain drain of young people leaving Wyoming because they have no protections or their friends don’t,” said Shepard.

Judy says she sees positive change coming to the Cowboy state, with an influx of Gay Straight Alliance groups.

“There’s 18 GSA’s there now. It’s amazing, when you think how small those schools are. It’s incredible,” said Shepard.

The Smithsonian says this is a permanent collection that they plan on preserving for future generations. They say as of now there are no plans for an exhibit.

The events for Matthew will continue throughout the week in Washington. His interment is set for Friday at the National cathedral.