Riley Strain’s family speaks after his body is found in Tennessee river

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Missing Missouri student Riley Strain‘s family held a press conference Friday afternoon, speaking for the first time since his body was discovered in the Cumberland River.

Officials confirmed Strain’s body was found in the Cumberland River on Friday, March 22 after receiving a call from a worker who spotted the 22-year-old in the water near the Nations neighborhood of West Nashville.

Officials confirm Riley Strain’s body found in Cumberland River

Businesses in the area had reportedly been routinely checking the water for signs of Strain since his disappearance. Police said they were able to identify the body based on multiple factors including his shirt and watch.

“I want to say to the family my heart and prayers go out to you all for this very unfortunate and tragic incident,” Nashville Police Chief John Drake said in a press conference following the discovery.

Strain’s father, stepfather and mother all showed up to police headquarters wearing green as they prepared to speak Friday afternoon. All three thanked law enforcement, the community and their loved ones back home for their support and efforts to find Strain.

His father, Ryan Gilbert, said those efforts, including “lots of sleepless nights” on behalf of the police department, have finally helped bring them some closure.

Strain’s stepfather, Chris Whiteid, took a deep breath as he explained that the last few weeks have been “an emotional roller coaster.” However, he said the support shown by others has given them “faith in people that sometimes gets clouded.”

“You don’t understand how much that meant to us in some of our darkest hours. The hugs, the prayers, the offers. I can’t say it enough, thank you,” Chris Whiteid said.

Strain’s mother, Michelle Whiteid, spoke through tears as she also expressed her gratitude for those involved in the search for her son.

“I just want to reiterate how thankful we are for everyone and how much we appreciate everyone’s support and love and prayers because we feel them. We’ve felt every one of them,” she said. “I just ask that you mamas out there hug your babies tight tonight, please. Please for me.”

Strain disappeared while on a fraternity trip in Nashville on March 8. One of his friends called 911 the next morning after saying he went to the Central Police Precinct and called the sheriff’s office to file a missing person’s report.

In addition to law enforcement, several volunteers and Strain’s family members were heavily involved in a search that stretched nearly two weeks. It was two TikTokers who reportedly found Strain’s bank card on the riverbank days after he disappeared.

Strain’s family drove down to Nashville immediately after his friends alerted them to his disappearance on March 9. In an interview on March 15, Strain’s cousin, Jake Bradley, told News 2 there was much more to him than this picture of a “college kid having fun.”

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“That’s not — if you saw him outside of that, his love and his care and his kindness were of a five-year-old boy that loved every toy he ever had, you know?” Bradley said.

During the investigation into his disappearance, investigators analyzed several bits of surveillance video from different bars and businesses showing his path through downtown Nashville. Strain could be seen stumbling around and falling over in the footage.

One of the final pieces of footage of Strain that night was bodycam video from a Metro Nashville officer who interacted with him on Gay Street just south of the Woodland Street Bridge. However, police said he did not appear distressed at the time.

Strain’s last phone ping was near James Robertson Parkway and Gay Street, where the search was focused for several days. Then, on Wednesday, March 20, officials began focusing efforts at the Cheatham Lock and Dam near Ashland City.

The spot where Strain’s body was found near 61st Avenue North was about eight miles from where he was last seen. According to officials, “no foul play-related trauma was observed.”

An autopsy is being conducted on Saturday and more information is expected to be released at a later date. The Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) has also been conducting a separate investigation to determine whether Strain was overserved the night he disappeared.

In a statement released last week, TC Restaurant Group, which owns and operates Luke’s 32 Bridge, said records show Strain purchased and was served one alcoholic drink and two waters before he was kicked out of the bar.

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