The parents of a teen who was shot and killed when he drunkenly entered a neighbor's home and was mistaken for an intruder believe it was murder, not self-defense.
After a night of drinking, Caleb Gordley, 16, was killed when he entered a home near his own in Sterling, Va. The homeowner believed Gordley was a burglar and fired his gun at the teen several times.
Gordley's parents initially forgave the shooter, Donald West Wilder, but new details in the police report, released to them nearly five months after the incident, have changed their minds.
“At no point, from the homeowner's...testimony, the account of the events, did he ever describe Caleb in any way being aggressive,” Shawn Gordley, Caleb Gordley’s father, told ABC News’ “20/20.”
An autopsy report also confirmed that Caleb Gordley died from a gunshot wound to the back.
“He shot him in the back,” Caleb Gordley’s mother, Jennea Gordley, who is divorced from his father, told “20/20.” “If you're really in fear of danger of your life and your family's life, why would you allow a person...that appeared to be dazed to you, walk right past you and then you shoot him in the back?”
Caleb Gordley had just been grounded for a week several days before he was killed in March 2013. The popular student-athlete and aspiring rapper was never much of a partier, but was itching to get out of the house by the end of the week. He even tweeted throughout the day saying, “Honestly who’s throwin a party tonight?!” and “Somebody make a party right now. I’m tryna to have fun tonight no lie.”
“He’s not much of a drinker, but he just wanted to try some that night,” Kory Carico, Caleb Gordley’s good friend, who was with him the night he died, told “20/20.”
At midnight on Saturday night, Caleb Gordley slipped out of his father’s upscale suburban home and headed for a friend’s house a few blocks away. For two hours, the teens tossed back vodka shots. By 2 a.m., a woozy Caleb Gordley decided it was time to go home before his dad noticed he was gone.
“He got pretty drunk,” Carico said. “I took him back to my house, and I was going to make him stay there, but...He knew he had to get home. I knew that for sure. He kept bothering us about it.”
Carico helped a seriously impaired Caleb Gordley walk home to the quiet cul-de-sac where the houses look nearly identical.
“I’ve never come in the back way before, but the houses look similar, so I figured it was his house because he thought it was his house, too,” Carico said.
Caleb Gordley climbed in through the window of the house he thought was his. “The alarm went off, and then I saw the light come on,” Carico said. “Then I heard yelling, which I thought was his dad, so I started running because I thought I was going to get in trouble.”
But it wasn’t Caleb Gordley’s house. It was the home two doors down from his own, where Donald West Wilder, 43, lives with his girlfriend. Startled, Wilder grabbed the 40-caliber pistol equipped with a laser and flashlight that he kept next to his bed, thinking a thief was breaking into his home at 2:30 a.m.
According to the police report, Shawn Gordley said, Wilder immediately saw Caleb Gordley in the kitchen area when the motion lights came on, did not recognize him, and yelled at him to get out of the house. Intoxicated, Caleb Gordley continued to walk through the home and headed towards the stairs.
“The homeowner said he made eye contact with Caleb, and there was a dazed look on his face, so he knew he was on drugs, alcohol, whatever the case may be,” Shawn Gordley said. “As he came up the steps, he said he saw no weapon, nothing like that.”
Caleb Gordley kept walking up the staircase, where Wilder’s girlfriend was sleeping upstairs. Frightened, Wilder fired one warning shot and one aimed at Caleb Gordley. “Caleb, according to a statement, turned around, didn’t attack the person shooting at him and simply said, according to the statement, ‘You just shot me,’” Shawn Gordley said. “At which point, he turned back around and proceeded to walk to what he thought was his own bedroom.”
After Caleb Gordley reached the top of the stairs, Wilder fired two or three more shots, according to the police report. One shot went through Caleb Gordley’s back, and another, which was aimed at his head, missed.
“You have a person that…actually comes in through a window…The alarm sounds off…He was six-foot tall, unknownst to the…homeowner, wearing dark clothing,” Sheriff Michael Chapman of Loudon County, Va., told “20/20.” “You look at everything in context of what’s going on: 2:30 in the morning, somebody breaking in to your house, you..had no idea who this person was.”
“You could have...shot him in leg,” Shawn Gordley said. “Instead he lined himself up at the perfect angle to shoot a hollow point bullet through my son's lung and explode his chest and then a fourth shot at his head for good measure.”
No charges were ever filed against Wilder. Through his attorney, Wilder declined a request from “20/20” for an interview, saying in statement, “As you can imagine, the incident was an unfortunate tragedy on every level...As we are not confident that participating in your program would contribute to the healing process, we are unwilling to so participate.”
Ten months after Caleb Gordley’s death, his family and friends are struggling to understand how his mistake ended so tragically and still waiting for an apology in person from the man who took his life.
“Do I hate him? No. Do I want him put away? No, I don't think that's going to solve anything,” Jennea Gordley said.
“I put all of the blame on me at first. I thought it was all my fault, because I took him to the wrong house,” Carico said.
“We can’t just forget about him and let him go. I have to remember him for the rest of my life,” said Carico.