17 Years Ago Today: Matt Shepard

17 Years Ago Today: Matt Shepard

Seventeen years ago today, October 6, 1998, Matt Shepard was found beaten and left to die tied to a fence outside Laramie, Wyoming.

The 21 year old, openly gay student at the University of Wyoming died six days later at Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado, on October 12, from severe head injuries received during his brutal attack.

Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, both 21 at the time, were charged with Shepard’s murder. Both cut deals to avoid the death penalty; both men are serving double life sentences in prison.

In October 2009, the United States Congress passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (commonly the “Matthew Shepard Act” or “Shepard/Byrd Act” for short), and on October 28, 2009, President Barack Obama signed the legislation into law.

Following her son’s murder, Matthew’s mother Judy Shepard became a prominent LGBT rights activist and established the Matthew Shepard Foundation. Shepard’s death inspired notable films, novels, plays, songs, and other works.