Parents speak out about their teenage son who was shot to death after accidentally entering a neighbor's house. News4 Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey reports.
The parents of a Virginia teenager who was shot to death by a neighbor early Sunday say they don't fault the man who killed their son.
Caleb Gordley, 16, was a three-sport athlete and an aspiring rap artist.
After a night of partying, the teenager mistakenly entered the house two doors down from his own in Sterling, Va., a suburb of Washington, D.C. He was shot by the homeowner, who believed the boy was an intruder, according to a statement from Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office.
"I want you to know, sir, I forgive you," said Jennea Gordley, Caleb's mother. "I understand this was an accident. I truly believe everything happens for a reason. My son, he's an angel."
Caleb's parents met with reporters Tuesday to provide their understanding of the incident and to remember their son.
"I love my son," said Shawn Gordley, surrounded by family outside their home. "I don't have many tears left. His mother and I are going to see his body for the first time today."
Caleb sneaked out of the house Saturday night to go to a party, his father said. After several hours of drinking, the Park View High School student and his friends walked back to the neighborhood. That's when the teen made a fateful mistake.
Caleb and a friend jumped a fence that runs behind his home and the neighbor’s, his parents said, but instead of entering his home, Caleb climbed through an unlocked window and began walking up the neighbor's stairway. That man — a Loudoun County volunteer firefighter — shot and killed Caleb.
"Whether he gave a warning shot or yelled at him, I'm pretty sure Caleb thought it was me yelling at him," Shawn Gordley said. "He kept walking toward what he thought was his room, because the houses are identical."
Shawn Gordley said he won't dwell on the neighbor's actions.
"You want answers, but the more I looked for answers, the more it hurt,” he said. “All the answers in the world aren't going to bring him back."
Caleb's family did have critical words for the Loudoun County's Sheriff's Office. They say they've been left in the dark and they are troubled they weren't allowed to see their son sooner.
"I feel like I was robbed of the opportunity of even identifying his body," said Jennea Gordley, who traveled from her home in Dayton, Ohio, after she got word of her son's death.
Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman said he met with Mr. Gordley Tuesday.
"This is a tragedy all the way around," Chapman said.
The department is still fact-finding and does not want to release inaccurate information on the case, he said. The State Medical Examiner's Office in Manassas took custody of the body, but Chapman promised to conduct a review to find out whether things could have been handled differently.
"I'm in discussions with my investigative bureau right now to determine why there was not that opportunity in advance before the medical examiner, before the body was taken," he said.
Caleb's parents said they are planning to hold two celebrations of his life, one in Sterling and one in Ohio. They find consolation in the many tributes on social media sites and they have their son's music.
"I believe everything happens for a reason," said his mother. "My son was loved. He left us with so much music."
A relative has gathered up all of Caleb's lyrics and put them in a binder.
Finally, Caleb's parents also told reporters about the day their son was born after an emergency C-section. They said mother and son were in danger of death.
"We got 16 1/2 awesome years out of this young man,” Shawn Gordley said. “We could have had none ... I will hold onto that. I will hold on to those 16 years."
But he said he and Caleb's 13-year-old sister will soon move out of the house he shares with a college friend. After what happened, he said he can't stay on Pullman Court.