STERLING, Va. (AP) — The parents of a northern Virginia teenager have a message for the man who shot and killed the 16-year-old: They don’t blame him. They forgive him.
The teen, Caleb Gordley, died Sunday, shot and killed by his neighbor two doors down. His parents, Shawn and Jennea Gordley, said Caleb sneaked out of the house Saturday night and went drinking with some friends. When he returned early Sunday morning, he mistakenly climbed through a back window of the wrong house, which looks very similar to his own.
Inside the house, according to the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, the homeowner called 911 to report an intruder, confronted Caleb and fatally shot him.
Caleb’s mother, Jennea, said Tuesday that she believed the shooting was an accident.
“I don’t even blame the gentleman,” Jennea Gordley said. “I don’t know what I would have done.”
Caleb had been grounded Saturday night, so he sneaked out of the house to attend a party in the neighborhood for about two hours, his father said.
“I’m not the strictest father, but I have a lot of rules,” he said.
Caleb and his friends walked back after the party and tried to sneak Caleb back in the house at about 2:30 a.m. Sunday. They ended up in the backyard of their neighbor, who has a similar home and fenced-in backyard. The Gordleys moved to the home last May. Most of the two-story single-family homes on the street have similar features.
Caleb went into the neighbor’s house through an unlocked back window, Shawn Gordley said.
In a phone interview Tuesday, Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman said the shooting involves a “tragic set of circumstances.”
“My heart just breaks for this family,” Chapman said.
Investigators have no reason to believe that Caleb entered the home with any intent to commit a crime, Chapman said, but his presence in the home was itself a crime.
No charges have been filed in the shooting, though the case was still under review. Chapman said that legally, he does not believe criminal charges would be warranted if the homeowner was in fear at the time he fired the shots, though he said legal issues are better addressed by the commonwealth’s attorney, Jim Plowman.
“You have a nighttime intrusion, when it’s dark,” Chapman said. “There are two sides to this.”
Plowman declined comment Tuesday.
The shooter has not been identified, though press releases from the sheriff’s office indicate that they were called to the scene on reports that a homeowner had fired shots at an intruder. Property records show the home is owned by Donald West Wilder II, a volunteer firefighter. Nobody answered a knock on the door at Wilder’s home Tuesday, and phone messages were not returned.
Shawn Gordley acknowledged that at first, he was angry and wanted answers to questions about his son’s death.
“But the more I looked for answers, the more it hurt,” He said. “All the answers in the world are not going to bring him back.”
The Gordleys — natives of Dayton, Ohio — remembered their 16-year-old son Caleb on Tuesday as a lover of music and sports. On Monday, students at Park View High School, which Caleb attended, wore orange and black in memory of Caleb’s favorite football team, the Cincinnati Bengals.
On Tuesday, the Gordleys recalled the harrowing circumstances of Caleb’s birth, when complications threatened the life of both mother and baby. They focused on the time they had with their son, rather than the time they have lost.
“We got 16½ awesome years out of this young man,” Shawn Gordley said. “We could have had none.”