David Ritcheson's family continued to grapple with why the Hispanic teen, who had survived a gruesome racial assault last year, leapt to his death from a cruise ship.
During a funeral service attended by more than 200 people, Ritcheson was remembered as a caring, warm, lovable and intelligent young man who wanted others to be happy and not burdened by his emotional pain.
Ritcheson, 18, had gone on a cruise to Mexico with some friends on June 30. Early the next morning he climbed a tower on the ship and jumped into the Gulf of Mexico after attempts to talk him down failed.
A preliminary report by the Galveston County Medical Examiner's Office ruled his July 1 death a suicide, saying he died of drowning and blunt head trauma, the result of his body striking the water after he jumped.
Ritcheson, a Mexican-American, was beaten unconscious and sodomized with a plastic pole by a teen shouting "White Power!" in April 2006 at a suburban Houston home as a group of teens partied, drank and took cocaine and Xanax.
His attackers also stomped on him, burned him with cigarettes, cut him with a knife and poured bleach on him before leaving him for dead. It was hours before his naked body was discovered and medical help was called.
The attack was apparently triggered by Ritcheson's drunken pass toward the 12-year-old sister of one of the other teens.
While Ritcheson's body, which had undergone about 30 surgeries after the brutal beating, continued to get stronger, he had refused to seek counseling for the emotional trauma of the attack.
"There was something going on," said Fernandez, 34. "He didn't want anybody to hurt. He didn't want anybody to feel the pain he was feeling."
His attackers, David Henry Tuck, who sports racist tattoos including a swastika, and Keith Robert Turner were convicted separately of aggravated sexual assault.
Tuck, then 18, was sentenced to life in prison. Turner, then 17, was sentenced to 90 years. Both are eligible for parole after 30 years.
The attack, which drew worldwide attention, prompted federal lawmakers to craft legislation that strengthens U.S. hate crime laws. In April, Ritcheson testified before Congress on the bill, which is pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Authorities have said they did not prosecute Ritcheson's attack as a hate crime because it would not have affected the possible punishment.
Carlos Leon, the attorney for Ritcheson's family, said the teen's parents, who did not speak with the media after the funeral, and other relatives will continue working to ensure that the pending legislation is passed.
"His legacy has yet to be completed," Leon said. "His family will do what they can to further it."
Leon said Ritcheson's family also hoped that others who have been victims of brutal crimes will seek whatever emotional or psychological help they need as well.
"We need to teach people that have been victimized like David to not only trust in their family but they have to trust in anybody that can help them," Leon said.
Josie Monrrial, Ritcheson's great aunt from Waco, wore a handmade T-shirt that had a photo of the teen as a boy wearing a Houston Rockets jersey. Underneath the photo were the words, "David, We Will Always Love You."
"He was so strong. He never wanted anybody to feel sorry for him," she said. "I know he is with his grandma and grandpa in heaven."
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