2/12/2006

Master Mason Spc. Wilder found dead after ritual

Spc. Donald Anthony Wilder, radio communication security controller repairman with the 512th Maintenance Company, become active with the Prince Hall Masons in the fall of 2005 and was found dead in a barracks shower. His plan was to get so drunk for the Jan. 7 2006 ceremony that he wouldn't feel the pain of the paddling he expected, according to a friend, Spc. Tony de'Ercole. His mother Diane Wilder, said her son told her that if he got so drunk that he passed out, his fellow Masons would take his blows for the fallen Brother.

The Prince Hall Masons are a predominantly black secretive brotherhood. Similar to other branches of Masons, the group offers a system of morality and performs community service. Several U.S. troops in Europe and around the world belong to the Prince Hall Masons. On Jan. 8, just hours after the evening ceremony that took place inside Mannheim American High School at Benjamin Franklin Village, Wilder was found dead in a friend's shower in the barracks at Spinelli Barracks in Mannheim, medical professionals, military police and the German police were called to the scene. Shortly after noon, Spc. Donald Anthony Wilder, a 21-year-old veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, was pronounced dead.

An autopsy performed last month at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center was inconclusive, pending further studies, which are due back next week (2/14/06 - 2/18/06). Marie Shaw a hospital spokeswoman, said preliminary findings show Wilder experienced a sudden, unexpected death. Soldiers are not prohibited from joining such groups as the Masons.

The Prince Hall Grand Lodge that has jurisdiction of the lodge with which Wilder was active issued an edict against hazing just 10 days after Wilder died. The lodge's Grand Master said his group is investigating what happened at the initiation ceremony, stated paddling is forbidden, a that what happened on Jan. 7 2006 was an isolated incident that should not reflective the Prince Hall Masons as a whole.

"Be it hereby known and acknowledged that there will be no hazing or un-Masonic conduct of any sort tolerated during degree work within the Jurisdiction of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Washington and Jurisdiction, the Jan. 18 2006 letter stated. Any such behavior that is determined to be inappropriate will be dealt with swiftly and unequivocally per our code on un-Masonic conduct."

The letter was signed by Wendell O. Hutchings, the lodge's grand master.

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