Matthew Shepard continues to have an intense presence in Laramie, Wyo., the small town where he was viciously murdered 10 years ago this week.

“This time of year, for the people that were close to it, always means something,” said Dave O’Malley, a member of the Laramie City Council who was the town’s police chief when Shepard was lured to a desolate field, beaten mercilessly by two assailants and then left to die.

“That’s a pretty good size group of us here that were involved in one way or another,” O’Malley said.

In recent days, Shepard’s presence has manifested in the dozens of television news crews and newspaper reporters from across the country that have descended on Laramie for the 10-year anniversary of Shepard’s death, and for a Sept. 27 ceremony at the University of Wyoming during which the school’s president dedicated a memorial bench to Shepard.

A metal plaque in the center of the bench reads: “Matthew Wayne Shepard, Dec. 1, 1976-Oct. 12, 1998. Beloved son, brother, and friend. He continues to make a difference. Peace be with him and all who sit here.”

The legacy of the small-framed, blond haired young gay man who everyone knew as Matt lives on throughout the year in Laramie, from the presence of gay-straight student alliances at high schools throughout the city, to the $25,000 raised during the seventh annual Wyoming AIDS Walk earlier this year.

“I think we’ve seen some changes over the last 10 years that have been really positive — they may not seem hugely dramatic to some people, but there have been changes,” O’Malley said, noting the growing influence of the University of Wyoming’s gay student group, Spectrum.

“Around the time that Matt was killed, you knew the group existed on campus, but you heard very little about them,” he said.

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