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Parents of teen killed by Virginia homeowner want his death to inspire change

The parents of a Dayton-born teen who was shot and killed in Virginia last week after he erroneously entered the home of a neighbor hope his death will inspire positive change in the world.

Dayton natives Shawn and Jennea Gordley are in town this week to hold a memorial service for their son, Caleb Gordley, 16. Caleb was killed March 17 in Sterling, Va. after he was mistaken for an intruder.

Shawn and Jennea Gordley said they forgive the man who shot their son and think there are lessons to be learned from the tragedy.

“Horrible things happen and there is no reason,” Shawn Gordley said, but they don’t want their son’s death to be in vain.

“It was not absolutely necessary for my son to lose his life,” said Jennea Gordley, who moved back to the area after the couple divorced and now lives in Clayton. She said better training for gun owners could help prevent further deaths. She also said she hopes to promote a resurgence of neighborliness in communities because she believes that if the man who shot her son had known the family two doors down, the shooting could have been avoided.

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Neither Shawn Gordley nor his two children had ever met the man who lived in an almost identical house down the street before the shooting, and they haven’t spoken to him since.

Investigators believe that Caleb was intoxicated and attempting to sneak back into his own house when he scaled a backyard fence and crawled into an unlocked window at the stranger’s home. Even his friend who walked him home thought the teen had made it inside safely, Shawn Gordley said.

“He heard yelling and thought it was me,” Gordley said. “He heard two bangs,” but didn’t know his friend had been shot until the story hit the news the next day.

Caleb’s father was similarly unaware of the tragedy when he awoke the next morning to find his son not home. He heard the news of a shooting in his neighborhood, but brushed it off.

“I never in a million years associated that it was my son,” he said.

Jennea Gordley said she’s realistic about the fact that teens are going to go out with their friends and may drink or make other poor decisions. She said she hopes her son’s death will at least be a lesson to teens to stay put and not drive or make other bad choices in order to avoid punishment. “It’s not worth your life,” she said.

Shawn and Jennea Gordley are both Belmont High School graduates who lived in Dayton until 2000. Caleb and his sister, 13, were both born in Dayton and visited family in the area during summers.

The service for local family and friends will be at the Greenmont Village Hall in Kettering Tuesday evening.

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