Timeline in Spc. Donald Anthony Wilder’s death
Stars and Stripes March 16, 2008
6 p.m., Jan. 7, 2006: Spc. Donald Anthony Wilder arrives at Mannheim High School gymnasium to set up for an initiation to become a Knights Templar within a Masonic organization. Wilder is already a member of the Prince Hall Masons with the Perfect Square Lodge No. 88 in Mannheim and has gone through the first three Masonic degrees.
7 p.m.: The ceremony starts when nine Masons and the three initiates, including Wilder, are present.
7-10 p.m.: The candidates are taught about the Knights Templar. At some point in the ceremony, the initiates go outside the gym to drink the “five libations,” which involves sipping liquor from a cup. The initiates are outside in front of the high school and asked by a civilian Mason if they want to leave or not be paddled. All three say they would be hit. They are blindfolded, told to take off their shirts, pants and shoes and brought inside the gym to “walk a line.”
The line consists of Masons paddling or “touching” the initiates with wooden paddles, ranging in size from 6-by-8 inches to 4-by-15 inches.
“I think (Wilder) was hit about 20 times,” according to the statement of a sergeant in Wilder’s unit whose name was redacted from the investigation report. “I know one time he was hit one (sic) in the right leg. I’m not sure exactly how it happened, but I think he saw it coming and moved out of the way.”
A specialist from Wilder’s unit said he hit him a few times along with other people.
“The line was sort of like a staggered line — you walk down one line, turn and walk down another line,” according to the specialist’s statement to investigators. “As the person walks down the line, he is hit with the paddle two times. Spc. Wilder walked through the line and was hit with the paddle. Only four or five people hit Spc. Wilder with the paddle.”
The paddling lasts three to four minutes, after which Wilder says his last obligation, finishing the ceremony.
10 p.m.: The ceremony ends.
“After the ceremony was over, Spc. Wilder was happy he finished, happy he was a Sir Knight, but at the same time, he seemed a little sad he was leaving Germany,” according to the statement of a staff sergeant present at the ceremony. “He was giving everyone his e-mail address so we could stay in touch with him. Spc. Wilder even hugged most everyone who was there.”
Ten days later, the staff sergeant is shown a photograph of Wilder’s injuries and asked by investigators if the paddling was excessive. The staff sergeant replies: “A little, yeah.”
The investigator then asks the staff sergeant, based on the photo, how many times he thought Wilder was hit.
“More than 10,” the staff sergeant answers. “It also depends on your complexion. It does look bad.”
10 p.m.-1 a.m., Jan. 8, 2006: Wilder, a sergeant and a specialist go to some bars in downtown Mannheim, including the Pavilion and Murphy’s Law Irish Pub. Wilder wants to party. At the first club, the sergeant sees Wilder drink four shots of rum. He also sees Wilder having mixed drinks at other clubs.
By the time Wilder leaves the first bar, he is already “pretty intoxicated.” At the next bar, Wilder has seven or eight shots of rum and then drinks two to four rum and colas.
When they leave the last bar, Wilder throws up twice on the sidewalk, one right after the other.
“The vomit looked like food,” the sergeant stated. “No blood or anything else in it. He got some on the front of his PT jacket. He was staggering and slurring his words. I had to help him.”
1 a.m.-5:30 a.m.: The men return to the barracks, but Wilder is passed out in the car. The sergeant and specialist carry Wilder up to the second floor of the barracks.
“We dragged him down the hall,” according to the sergeant’s statement. “We used his arms to drag him.”
Because Wilder has vomit on his clothes, the soldiers strip him down, put him in the shower, wash him off and dry him. They leave him in the shower. They later wrap Wilder in a blanket and place him on his right side.
The sergeant and specialist check on Wilder repeatedly throughout the early morning until they fall asleep.
11 a.m.: The sergeant wakes and checks on Wilder.
“He was in the same position as last night,” the sergeant stated. “I pulled his arm up and noticed it was stiff. His face was also blue.”
12:05 p.m.: Donald Anthony Wilder is pronounced dead.
“The levels of alcohol as determined by toxicologic analysis are greater than reported lethal limits,” according to Army Col. (Dr.) Kathleen Ingwersen, who performed Wilder’s autopsy. “The blunt force injuries are relatively superficial and noncontributory to the cause of death.”