Riley Strain’s family casts doubts on autopsy findings that there was no foul play in Missouri student’s death

Riley Strain’s family has ordered a private second autopsy after more questions have emerged

Amelia Neath
Thursday 28 March 2024 14:56 GMT
Riley Strain’s family order private autopsy for further insight

The family of the Missouri student found dead in a Nashville river have cast doubts on his autopsy, which found no signs of foul play in his death.

Riley Strain, 22, vanished without a trace one night in early March after he was kicked out of a bar in downtown Nashville. He was last spotted in surveillance footage close to the Cumberland River.

Two weeks later, his body was discovered by a worker in the river, around eight miles from the downtown area.

Police said they did not suspect foul play in his death and a preliminary autopsy ruled his death an accident.

However, some details have sparked questions from Strain’s family.

Now, the 22-year-old’s parents have ordered a second, private autopsy to try and get more insight into his death.

Chris Dingman, a family friend who also acts as a spokesperson for the family, told NewsNation that Strain was missing his jeans, cowboy boots, and wallet when he was found.

“The only things that were found with him, as the police stated in the report, was the watch and the shirt,” Mr Dingman said.

He said the family had hired a private independent company to carry out asecond autopsy to focus on “more testing on specific items”.

Strain went missing after he visited Nashville with his fraternity brothers on 8 March
Strain went missing after he visited Nashville with his fraternity brothers on 8 March (AP)

“The original autopsy came out just like theirs [Metro Nashville Police Department] did, with no obvious signs of trauma as in weapons, guns or knives,” he said.

“One thing that threw the family for a loop was the coroner going on record with a news person in Nashville stating about the lack of water in his lungs,” Mr Dingman said. It is unclear when this alleged statement was made and to what news outlet.

The medical examiner has not publicly confirmed if water was or was not found in Strain’s lungs.

“I’m not a crime drama person, by no means. But usually, water in the lungs means that you know, they were alive when they went into the water,” Mr Dingman told NewsNation, saying that this has raised more questions.

“So more questions, we hope to get to get some answers with the toxicology [report],” he added.

The medical examiner told News Channel 5 on Monday that, even if Strain did not have water in his lungs, it would not exclusively mean he was dead before he went into the river.

His body was found two weeks later by a worker on the Cumberland River
His body was found two weeks later by a worker on the Cumberland River (Metro Nashville Police Department)

A person struggling to breathe underwater can have a throat spasm, shutting off the airways and preventing water getting into the lungs, News Channel 5 reported. This is known as “dry drowning”.

On 8 March, Strain was with his fraternity brothers in Nashville for a spring formal trip.

He was kicked out of country star Luke Bryan’s 32 Bridge Food + Drink at around 9.45pm.

He told his friends he would return to their hotel, but instead was seen walking towards the direction of the Cumberland River.

He was reported missing in the early hours of 9 March when his friends realised that Strain had not returned to the hotel. Two weeks later, his body was found in the river.

The Independent has made attempts to reach out to the medical examiner’s office. Messages to the email address were undelivered. When reached by phone, The Independent was redirected back to the email address and told this was the only form of contact.

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