Riley Strain Case: Family Friend Reveals "Huge" Development


Originally appeared on E! Online

The Riley Strain case continues to unfold.

Weeks after the body of the University of Missouri student was found in Nashville’s Cumberland River, family friend Chris Dingman says they received intel from the alleged last person who spoke to Riley before he went missing. And according to Chris, who has spoken on behalf of the family several times since Riley’s body was discovered, the unidentified person also gave a statement to detectives.

“That was huge,” he told News Nation April 10 of the newfound witness. “That was something we were looking for. He told the detective his account of the story of what happened to Riley.”

E! News has reached out to Nashville authorities regarding the new development but has not heard back.

Riley—who disappeared on the evening of March 8 during his fraternity’s trip to Nashville—was found eight miles away from where he was last seen in the Cumberland River on March 22. At the time his body was recovered, the 22-year-old was wearing the shirt he had been wearing on the night he went missing as well as his watch, authorities said, but his boots, pants and wallet were missing.

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After an initial autopsy found no foul play to be involved in Riley’s death, the college student’s death was declared “accidental.” However, his family ordered another autopsy, during which the coroner found there was no water in his lungs, Chris told News Nation.

“I’m not a crime drama person by no means,” Chris told the outlet March 27. “But usually water in the lungs means that you know, they were alive when they went into the water.”

Riley Strain and Mom Michelle WhiteidRiley Strain and Mom Michelle Whiteid

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And while Riley’s family, which includes mother Michelle Whiteid and stepfather Chris Whiteid, and father Ryan Gilbert and stepmother Milli Gilbert, have not made a public statement regarding the development, Chris clarified that the family “100 percent” believes something more than Riley simply falling into the river led to his death.

Riley’s father also clarified that the family continues to seek answers from his son’s Delta Chi fraternity brothers about the night Riley went missing.

“We haven’t really heard much from them,” Ryan added to News Nation. “There’s a lot of things we’d like to find out from them.”

Read on for every detail about the Riley Strain investigation.

Riley Strain’s Final Hours

<p>Riley Strain's Final Hours</p><p>Riley Strain's Final Hours</p>

Riley Strain, 22, a business and financial planning major at the University of Missouri, was among a big group of Delta Chi fraternity brothers that arrived in Nashville by bus on Friday, March 8.

They checked into The Tempo hotel on Rosa L. Parks Boulevard, a short walk to the nightlife on Broadway.

<p>"When they left Tempo, the went down to, I believe, <strong><a href="https://www.eonline.com/news/miranda_lambert" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Miranda Lambert;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Miranda Lambert</a></strong>'s bar [Casa Rosa] first, spent probably about an hour and 15 minutes or so, maybe a little longer, there," Riley's stepdad <strong>Chris Whiteid</strong> later told <a href="https://www.wsmv.com/2024/03/16/family-discusses-timeline-riley-strains-disappearance/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:NBC affiliate WSMV 4;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">NBC affiliate WSMV 4</a>, describing what he knew of Riley's whereabouts before he went missing. Then the group went to the <strong><a href="https://www.eonline.com/news/garth_brooks" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Garth Brooks;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Garth Brooks</a></strong>-owned Friends in Low Places Bar & Honky Tonk, where Riley FaceTimed his mom, <strong>Michelle Whiteid</strong>, at around 7:30 p.m. </p> <p>"I said, 'Have fun, be careful, I love you,'" Michelle told WSMV. "I got an 'I love you' and that's the last I heard."</p> <p>Chris explained that he overheard Riley detailing his evening to Michelle. "He didn't even sound like he had been drinking a lot," Chris <a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/college-student-riley-strain-went-2-bars-night-went-missing-talked-nas-rcna143956" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:told NBC News;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">told NBC News</a>, adding that Riley continued to text with his mom for another hour or so after they spoke. </p> <p>Riley's stepdad also speculated whether he could have been drugged, because "we're hearing the horror stories" about that happening to people.</p><p><button class=

Riley Is Escorted Out of Luke Bryan’s Bar

<p>Riley Is Escorted Out of Luke Bryan's Bar</p><p>Riley Is Escorted Out of Luke Bryan's Bar</p>
<p>It wasn't Riley's first time in Nashville, according to his stepdad.</p> <p>But he and his friends "got separated," Chris told <a href="https://www.wsmv.com/2024/03/12/parents-worst-nightmare-son-visiting-nashville-college-trip-disappears/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:WSMV on March 11;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">WSMV on March 11</a>. "The boys called him, and he said I'm walking back to my hotel. They didn't think anything about it." </p><p><button class=
<p>But a security camera outside an escape room business captured Riley on Third Avenue North cutting across a parking lot and going in a different direction. Another camera recorded him on Gay Street crossing First Avenue North at 9:47 p.m. </p> <p>Upon reaching the corner, he stopped and, staggering a bit, looked back in the direction he'd just come from before continuing down the street. (Police <a href="https://twitter.com/MNPDNashville/status/1767578348249559347" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:shared both videos;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">shared both videos</a> on social media during the investigation.)</p> <p>Chris said they wanted to see "what was happening before the parking lot, and we'd also like to know what happened after he crossed down onto Gay Street because there's such a void that we haven't seen. There's something there that's going to fill some gaps."</p> <p>Riley's father, <strong>Ryan Gilbert</strong>, <a href="https://www.wsmv.com/2024/03/16/family-discusses-timeline-riley-strains-disappearance/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:told WSMV;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">told WSMV</a>, "He made it as far as we know, basically to the James Robertson [Parkway] Bridge, and that's the critical time where things went dark." The last Life360 ping from Riley's phone came from near the bridge, which crosses the Cumberland River, according to his parents and stepdad.</p><p><button class=
<p>According to what Riley's friends told Chris, as he detailed to WSMV, when the rest of the group got back to the hotel that night and saw he wasn't there, they went back out to look for him and tried to track him using Snapchat locations. When that proved fruitless, and then Riley wasn't to be found in any of the other rooms where roughly 30 members of the fraternity were staying, the guys called Chris and Michelle.</p> <p>He and Riley's mom jumped in the car, Chris said, and drove straight to Nashville from Springfield, Mo.</p><p><button class=

The Investigation Begins

<p>The Investigation Begins</p><p>The Investigation Begins</p>
<p>"We talk every day, multiple times a day," Michelle told WSMV three days into the search. "This is the longest I've ever gone without talking to him."</p> <p>Chris described his stepson as "a very identifiable young man" who was 6-foot-7, with blond hair and blue eyes. "We're in a bad dream," he said. "Can we wake up? Please, just let us wake up."</p> <p>Added Michelle, "Oh, God, bud, we love you so much and we're all looking for you, all of us. If anybody knows anything, please just call the police."</p><p><button class=

The First Trace of Riley Strain

<p>The First Trace of Riley Strain</p><p>The First Trace of Riley Strain</p>
<p>Stepdad Chris told NBC News the family had been able to access all of Riley's accounts except for the one linked to the bank card, and that there had been no credit or debit charges on any of them during the search.</p> <p>"I want Riley to know: We're actively looking for you, son," he said. "We're going to bring you home."</p><p></div></div></div><div class=

Stepdad Chris told NBC News the family had been able to access all of Riley’s accounts except for the one linked to the bank card, and that there had been no credit or debit charges on any of them during the search.

“I want Riley to know: We’re actively looking for you, son,” he said. We’re going to bring you home.

The Search Hits the Water

<p>The Search Hits the Water</p><p>The Search Hits the Water</p>

Riley Strain’s Body Is Found

<p>Riley Strain's Body Is Found</p><p>Riley Strain's Body Is Found</p>

Two Autopsies

<p>Two Autopsies</p><p>Two Autopsies</p>

Saying Goodbye to Riley Strain

<p>Saying Goodbye to Riley Strain</p><p>Saying Goodbye to Riley Strain</p>

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