The Tragedy Of Riley Strain's Death Explained

The body of 22-year-old University of Missouri student Riley Strain was found on March 22, 2024. He went missing on March 8, and the unsettling unsolved disappearance immediately began to make headlines. On the night he disappeared, he was kicked out of Luke's 32 Bridge bar, where he was visiting a group of his fraternity brothers. Nearby surveillance footage showed him walking across Church Street near the Cumberland River, stumbling and falling. According to TMZ, his body was found in the river approximately 8 miles from downtown Nashville at approximately 7:28 a.m. CT. Authorities have not observed any trauma to the body and do not suspect foul play. However, an autopsy is still pending, and the cause of Strain's death remains a mystery.

Strain was supposed to meet his friends back at a hotel but went in the opposite direction toward the river. He appears intoxicated in the surveillance footage — but relatively coherent in other footage released afterward. As reported by TMZ, the bar said it kicked out Strain for violating its "conduct standards," and according to the outlet this suggests he was "heavily intoxicated." However, the bar said in a statement that the student only had one alcoholic drink and two waters.

Last moments

As of this writing, footage of Riley Strain's last-known moments allegedly shows him approaching the James Robertson Parkway bridge, which is a couple of blocks north of Church Street, where the previously mentioned surveillance footage showed him near the Cumberland River. The video has yet to be released to the public but was discussed when Strain's mother Michelle and stepfather Chris Whiteid spoke with NewsNation's Ashleigh Banfield. "Approximately where that sign that says "14 foot 3" for the height on the James Robertson is where Riley was last seen on video," Whiteid said.

Chris Salisbury, an advocate for Nashville-area homeless, said multiple homeless people told him they saw Ross wearing a shirt resembling Strain's, and it had vomit on it. Whiteid pushed back against this narrative, calling it a "rumor," though NewsNation says a couple also said they saw the student vomiting over the side rail. Elsewhere, a man told WZTV that Strain was "very intoxicated." "We looked back up. He almost fell over," the man said. "The last bush right there caught him ... He was very, very, very intoxicated ... I never seen anybody stumble that hard before." 

Strain's final text was to a girl. Family friend Chris Dingman told NewsNation that the girl had messaged Strain to see "how he was doing," and he responded by saying, "Good lops." Some speculated that "lops" meant "low on power, sorry," but Dingman claimed the student's battery was not low.

Handling of the investigation

Some weren't happy with the handling of the initial investigation into Riley Strain's disappearance. As reported by the Daily Mail, the Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD) faced criticism for its allegedly slow response time to tips. 

"I wish something would have been done sooner," Chris Dingman told WZTV. "The first 48 is so crucial." Anna Clendening, one of the TikTokers who made a big break in the case when they found Strain's credit card, suggested to WPDE at the time that not enough was being done to locate the teen. "We need to do more," she said, later adding, "We want answers for them [Strain's parents] and we're going to look for them. If nobody else will, we will." 

After the TikTokers made their discovery, Strain's father Ryan Gilbert criticized the MNPD. "I think it just shines light on the B-minus job that the police force may be doing," he said.