Woman suing sheriff’s deputy over ‘forced baptism’ is found dead

The Tennessee bureau of investigation (TBI) said that they will wait for the autopsy report to rule out any foul play in Shandele Marie Riley’s death

Sravasti Dasgupta
Friday 15 April 2022 10:55 BST
A Tennesseee woman who sued a former deputy sheriff has been found dead in her home in Hamilton County
A Tennesseee woman who sued a former deputy sheriff has been found dead in her home in Hamilton County (Getty Images)

A Tennessee woman who sued a former deputy sheriff accusing him of baptisising her against her will has been found dead.

Shandele Marie Riley, 42, was found dead in her home on Log Cabin Lane in Hamilton County on Wednesday night, reported News9.

Authorities said that the cause of death is still not known and an autopsy will be conducted by the Hamilton County medical examiner.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) said that they will wait for the autopsy report to rule out any foul play in Ms Riley’s death.

Her death will be investigated by the TBI following a directive by Hamilton County district attorney Neal Pinkston.

In 2019 former deputy Daniel Wilkey was indicted on 44 charges including rape, assault, and official oppression after he pulled over Ms Riley in February that year.

He reportedly found her to be in possession of marijuana and placed her under arrest.

After he placed her in handcuffs, Ms Riley said that he inappropriately touched her.

The judge ruling in the case says that the duo discussed religion for a long time during the stop, according to an opinion released this week.

“Riley testified that Wilkey asked her whether she had been baptised. She responded with concern that she may not be ready. But, according to Riley’s testimony, Wilkey told her ‘God [was] talking to him’ and assured her that, if she got baptised, he would only write her a citation and she would be free to go about her business,” the judge wrote.

“According to Riley, Wilkey also indicated that he would speak at court on her behalf if she agreed. Riley decided to go along with this plan because she ‘[did not] want to go to jail.’ She also ‘thought [Wilkey] was a God-fearing, church-like man who saw something . . . in [her], that God talked to him,’ and testified that ‘it felt good to believe that for a minute.’”

Court records show that Mr Wilkey admitted to baptising a woman he arrested in February 2019.

However, he said that it was she who, unprompted, specifically asked him to do it so she could “turn away from her life of drug abuse and crime.”

Charges against her were dismissed by a court in November last year.

She had initially pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance.

Last week, a civil rights lawsuit against the former Tennessee sheriff's deputy was approved by a US District Court judge.

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