Body of Missing Student Riley Strain Found in Tragic End to Weekslong Search

Rachel Acenas
By Rachel Acenas
March 22, 2024US News
Body of Missing Student Riley Strain Found in Tragic End to Weekslong Search
Riley Strain. (Chris Whiteid via AP)

The body of missing college student Riley Strain was pulled from a river on Friday morning, two weeks after he disappeared after a night out with friends.

Metro Nashville Police Department confirmed his body was recovered from the Cumberland River in West Nashville, Tennessee, about eight miles from downtown. The 22-year-old still had the same shirt and watch he was wearing the night he disappeared, which helped identify him. There were no signs of foul play, police said.

Chief John Drake revealed during a press conference that a work crew alerted authorities to the discovery at 61st Ave. North in the Nations neighborhood.

“As they were removing an object from the river, they noticed what appeared to be Riley Strain pop up. The fire department was called in [and] retrieved the body from the river. The medical examiner’s office reviewed the body and we’ve confirmed that it is Riley Strain,” the police chief said.

“This is not the outcome that anyone hoped for – especially his parents and everyone who loved him,” Nashville Mayor Freddie O’Connell wrote in a post on X.

“I met with Riley’s family earlier this week, and as devastating as I find this news, I can’t imagine their heartbreak. We will continue to work toward improvements in safety in a variety of ways. I hope people will support the family, including by respecting their privacy,” the mayor said.

The University of Missouri student was last seen on a trip to Nashville with friends from his college fraternity. He went missing on March 8 after being kicked out of Luke’s 32 Bridge Food + Drink. The bar, owned by country singer Luke Bryan, served him one alcoholic beverage and two waters before a security team escorted him out due to “conduct standards,” according to a statement. He left the bar alone.

His friends and family tried contacting him but could not reach him. A fraternity friend contacted police the next morning to file a missing person’s report.

The student’s disappearance prompted a massive search by helicopter and ground crews. Authorities also released several videos during their search, including police body camera footage of his last known sighting. The video captured the moment he told a police officer that he was “doing good” on the night he disappeared.  The officer was responding to a vehicle burglary call when he saw the 6-foot-5 student and greeted him. At that time, Mr. Strain “did not appear distressed,” according to police.

But other surveillance footage from street cameras showed the student as he walked and stumbled several times earlier that night.

“I want to say to the family my heart and prayers go out to you all for this very unfortunate and tragic incident,” Chief Drake said. “I also want to say thank you to the Nashville community (for) the outpouring of support from the community in trying to help us locate Mr. Strain,” he said.

During an emotional press conference earlier this week, his family spoke out and announced they recruited the United Cajun Navy to assist in the search.

“He’s my best friend. He’s everything,” his mother, Michelle Whiteid, said.

A GoFundMe page raised over $65,000 as of Friday morning.

The police chief said an autopsy is pending.

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