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Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Caleb Gordley Justified Homicide Case

     Caleb A. Gordley, a 16-year-old junior at Parkview High School, lived with his father and his 13-year-old sister in Sterling, Virginia, a suburban community on the Maryland state line in the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area. Caleb played on the varsity basketball team and aspired to be a rapper. His mother, Jennea, divorced from his father Shawn, resided in nearby Clayton.

     Just before midnight on Saturday, March 16, 2013, after being grounded for several days, Caleb sneaked out of his bedroom and walked down the street to a party at a friend's house. For the next two hours he joined the others in drinking shots of vodka.

     Caleb left the party at two in the morning and headed home. The boy was so intoxicated he climbed through an unlocked window at the rear of a house two doors from his house. When Caleb entered his neighbor's dwelling he triggered a motion detection intrusion sensor that awoke the homeowner, Donald Wilder. The 43-year-old lived in the suburban house, one that looked like the Gordley home, with his girlfriend.

     The burglar alarm activation caused Mr. Wilder to grab the 40-caliber pistol he kept near his bed. From the top of the stairs, Mr. Wilder saw, in the light produced by the intrusion alarm, the figure of a six-foot person standing in his kitchen. The homeowner yelled at the intruder to get out of his house. Caleb, thinking that he was being yelled at by his father, ignored the command and headed up the stairway.

     With an intruder walking up the steps toward him, Mr. Wilder fired a warning shot to turn the invader back. The shot, however, did not cause the home intruder to retreat. When Caleb brushed past the homeowner at the top of the stairs, Mr. Wilder fired a second shot. The bullet hit Caleb in the back. The boy turned around and said, "You just shot me." He turned back around, took a few steps, collapsed and died.

     The next morning, Shawn Gordley awoke to find that Caleb was not in the house. A little later he heard the news about a fatal shooting that had occurred in the neighborhood. The father did not connect the incident to his missing son. Later that day the bad news reached him.

     In speaking to a local television reporter on the Monday following his son's death, Mr. Gordley said, "I definitely don't blame him [Donald Wilder]. I know he was trying to protect his family. I forgive him." Jennea Gordley, about a week after her son's homicide, said, "It was not absolutely necessary for my son to lose his life." Rather than suggesting measures to keep alcohol out of the hands of teenagers, she called for better training for gun owners.

     On September 10, 2013, following an investigation by the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office, Commonwealth Attorney Jim Plowman announced his decision not to file criminal charges against Mr. Wilder. The prosecutor believed Mr Wilder had a reasonable fear for his life and the life of his girlfriend. Based on the doctrine of self defense, the case was deemed a justifiable homicide.

     Shortly before the Loundoun County prosecutor's announcement, Shawn and Jennea Gordley received copies of the sheriff's office investigative report. Caleb's parents, after reading the police report, questioned Mr. Wilder's judgment. Jennea Gordley, in speaking to a reporter with ABC News, said, "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 walk right past you and then you shoot him in the back?"

     Shawn Gordley, having once forgiven Mr. Wilder, said, "He could have shot Caleb in the leg. 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." [The two shots after the fatal bullet both missed.]

     Donald Wilder, in a written statement wrote: "As you can imagine, the incident was an unfortunate tragedy on every level."

     While Shawn and Jennea Gordley questioned the necessity for the fatal shooting, they did not call for the criminal prosecution of Mr. Wilder. On that issue, Jennea Gordley said, "Do I hate him [Mr. Wilder]? No. Do I want him put away? No. I don't think that's going to solve anything."  


  1. Just watched the 20/20 episode on this incident. While I feel for the parents of the teenager, it is incomprehensible to me that they consider this murder. Awakened at 2am by his home alarm, the neighbor sees a 6ft tall male in his dark home that doesn't belong there. The male does not engage with the homeowner, apparently ignoring his warnings to leave and continues heading toward where the homeowners loved ones are sleeping. And the fact that the unknown male appears under the influence of an unknown substance makes him even MORE dangerous in my estimation, how can the homeowner predict what the male will do? HE CANT. The homeowner had no choice but to use his firearm to protect his family. Tragic ending, I will definitely be bringing this situation to the attention of my teenage son in the form of a teaching moment-do not drink to the point that you cannot recognize your own home.

    1. I agree with you and I don't I get how they don't understand that they just got done saying that they didn't know their neighbors so why would they expect their neighbor to know who the hell he was at 2:30 in the damn morning 2:30 in the morning I'm waking up I'm startled I'm going to shoot whoever is in my damn house. I don't care if you are my neighbor

    2. No, why does everybody think that we have to have guns to protect ourselves when the other does not have one, seriously what did that man believe that boy was going to do without one? I am a woman myself and I have several times tackled men to the floor and and locked them into a choke hold without killing them. Like seriously the young boy turned his back on the homeowner. It is very easy to put the gun down and apprehend the young man. Racism played a big part in it. Black man walks into a white man's home, everybody's mindset is, "OH My GoSH!! It's a black man, he's going to rob me.." Seriously people if it was a dazed white young man it would have never happened that way. That homeowner would've put there gun down and tackle the boy. Seriously, I can't believe people think it's right to pull a trigger when the other does not have a weapon. Whatever happened to the saying " never being a weapon to a fist fight" pathetic, the world and the people in it has no heart, no consideration, no common sense. This world will always be full of hate. It started off with hate and we add the people say we all are equal, but that is such a lie. If we all are equal, why shoot a young boy with no weapon in their hand. That's not equal, that's pure savage.

    3. You've clearly never been in a home invasion situation.Theres no way the homeowner could know if there is one invader or five. He was given multiple chances to leave the home and did not. It's easy for you to say he was "unarmed" in hindsight. The Homeowner had no way of knowing if he had a gun a knife or anything on his person. Tell the man in Miami that had half his face chewed off by a naked "unarmed" man that he was no threat either. For the record the officer fired multiple shots that had no effect on the man. It wasn't until continued firing that the attacker was brought down. Naturally you bring race into it when there's zero evidence of race being a factor. Instead of telling LAW ABIDING citizens they can't defend their family or home or self (especially if they are European American and the intruder is is not) Try telling the intruders parents to control their children ! Don't let them go drinking underage in the first place. I know your response will be"they didn't know he left the house in the middle of the night to go binge drinking!Exactly! His own parents didn't know where he was what he was doing but a person awakend in the middle of the night to an intruder is supposed to know what he's up to!?!You watch to much tv. Let's say you tackle and choke the home invader,his buddies come out of the shadows and shoot you in the back of the head.Now your wife and family etc are dead raped or who knows what their fate is. Look up the Wichita Massacre or the Tennessee Terror. Teach your children not to drink underage and to not invade other people's homes.It's not other people's job to guess what's in a home invaders mind. Good luck with that choke hold God Forbid you ever are in that situation.

  2. There is no way the shooter could have speculated that Caleb thought he was hearing his father's voice which is speculation by Caleb's family. I was just watching the 20/20 on ID and the show doesn't mention Virginia's self defense laws and how juries in VA tend to be sympathetic to homeowners in these situations. This was a tragic incident but the homeowner was legally in a state of peaceful enjoyment of his own home while the six foot teenager was a minor in consumption which is illegal. He was disobeying his father by going out and Caleb's father didn't keep safe custody of his minor child. While it apparently was a mistake Caleb did illegally Break and Enter the Wilder's home and was given multiple opportunities to flee the premises even though Mr. Wilder had no obligation to do so or to fire a warning shot which most self defense experts do not recommend because you give away your position so the warning shot was not in Wilder's best interest but was designed to give Caleb an opportunity to flee. There is no way he could have known Caleb was unarmed or his fighting skills or what drugs he was on. There have been cases where as many as five officers have had trouble taking down 70 year old women. Sad situation but it was a justified homicide.

  3. No Fairness, sorry this is rubbish. I feel terribly for this kid and his parents, but the homeowner was totally within his rights. It's easy to be wise in 20/20 hindsight, but we weren't there on the night. Please don't play the race card!

  4. The woman who has for some reason had to attack several men and put them in a chokehold is completely delusional. And the young man was mixed race, not black. Get your facts straight.