Riley Strain: Everything we know about the Missouri student found dead in Nashville

Riley Strain: Everything we know about the Missouri student found dead in Nashville

Months after missing University of Missouri student Riley Strain's body was found, his autopsy report was released on June 18.

The 22-year-old went missing in Nashville, Tennessee, on March 8. After an extensive search, Strain's body was pulled from the Cumberland River in West Nashville, about eight miles from downtown, the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department said in a statement on X on March 22.

According to his autopsy report, Strain “died as a result of drowning and ethanol intoxication.” There were no signs of external trauma to his body.

Here a breakdown of what happened to Riley Strain.

When did Riley Strain disappear?

Strain went missing after being asked to leave Luke Bryan's Nashville bar, Luke’s 32 Bridge Food + Drink, on March 8. He had been at the bar during a trip with his fraternity for a spring formal.

Strain’s stepfather, Chris Whiteid, told NBC News that Strain had gone to two bars before he was kicked out of Luke’s 32 Bridge Food + Drink. Whiteid said that Strain FaceTimed his mother between 7:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. that night from Garth Brooks’ bar, Friends in Low Places Bar & Honky-Tonk. Strain also went to Miranda Lambert’s Casa Rosa that evening, according to his stepfather.

Strain’s mother, Michelle Whiteid, and stepfather told NBC affiliate WSMV of Nashville on March 11 that Strain’s friends said he told them he would walk back to their hotel after he was asked to leave Luke’s 32 Bridge Food + Drink.

“At approximately 9:45 p.m., he was asked to leave Luke Bryan’s bar,” Chris Whiteid told the station. “They got separated. The boys called him, and he said, ‘I’m walking back to my hotel.’ They didn’t think anything about it.”

What happened to Riley Strain?

Luke’s 32 Bridge Food + Drink said in a March 15 statement that “based on our conduct standards,” Strain was escorted out by security at 9:35 p.m. on the night of his disappearance. The company did not say what Strain had done to be removed.

The bar’s owners said Strain was escorted out through the Broadway exit at the front of the building. A friend accompanied him down the stairs, according to the statement, but the friend did not leave with Strain and returned upstairs.

Luke’s 32 Bridge Food + Drink said it had been cooperating with investigators and provided “all security camera footage, photos of Riley at our establishment with detailed time stamps, transaction records, and staff accounts.”

When Strain's fraternity brothers returned to the Tempo Hotel, less than a mile away from the bar, they found Strain’s room key but no signs of Strain. When they tried to call him, his phone was dead, Strain’s parents told WSMV.

The students searched for Strain for hours while attempting to find him using his Snapchat locations. Finally, they called Strain's parents in Springfield, Missouri, to notify them he was missing.

Strain's parents immediately drove from their Springfield home to Nashville. “We talk every day, multiple times a day,” Michelle Whiteid told WSMV. “This is the longest I’ve ever gone without talking to him.”

“Riley is a very identifiable young man. He’s 6′7″, he’s 155-160 pounds with blond hair and blue eyes,” Chris Whiteid said. “We’re in a bad dream. Can we wake up? Please, just let us wake up.”

Riley Strain (Metropolitan Nashville Police Department)
Riley Strain (Metropolitan Nashville Police Department)

Chris Whiteid later told NBC News in an interview on “Top Story with Tom Llamas” on March 13 that it was out of character for Strain to not be in touch with his family.

“It’s very odd. Friday night when they got there, he had sent pictures, he called,” Chris Whiteid said. “Yes, we’re hurting and everything, but right now we’re still expecting a positive outcome.”

Where was Riley Strain last seen?

Strain was last seen by friends on the night of March 8 at Luke Bryan’s bar in downtown Nashville’s busy Broadway area, according to police.

Nashville Police shared a security video on March 13 that showed Strain crossing 1st Avenue North to Gay Street at 9:47 p.m. that night. In the video, he is seen wearing a two-toned shirt. After crossing the street, Strain pauses and appears to briefly turn, before continuing to walk in the same direction he was headed. The cross-section is about 0.7 miles from Luke Bryan’s bar.

On March 17, police announced Strain’s bank card had been found on “the embankment between Gay St. and the Cumberland River.”

Strain was last seen on video at around 9:52 p.m. on March 8 having a brief exchange with a police officer, according to footage shared by police on March 18. The post stated that Strain did not appear distressed.

The officer asked Strain how he was doing, and Strain replied, “I’m good. How are you?”

Nashville Police conducted a helicopter search of the area as well as ground searches by detectives. Strain’s family members also searched the area.

Luke’s 32 Bridge Food + Drink says Riley Strain only had one drink

In a statement on March 15, Luke’s 32 Bridge Food + Drink and its owner, TC Restaurant Group, said Strain was served one alcoholic drink and two waters before being escorted out by security.

In his Instagram story on March 12, country music star Luke Bryan shared a statement from the TC Restaurant Group, the owner and operator of Luke’s 32 Bridge, that said it was working with police to provide security camera video and other information to aid in the search.

Luke Bryan posted about Riley Strain's disappearance. (@lukebryan via Instagram)
Luke Bryan posted about Riley Strain's disappearance. (@lukebryan via Instagram)

“Y’all this is scary. Praying for his safe return,” Bryan wrote on top of the statement.

“Our thoughts are with his family and loved ones for his safe return,” the statement also added.

Bryan also shared a post from Nashville police asking anyone with information on Strain’s disappearance to come forward.

Riley Strain’s university and fraternity speak out

The University of Missouri said in a news release on March 12 that school officials learned over the weekend that Strain had gone missing during a trip to Nashville for “a private event.”

The school said it had been in communication with Strain’s family and Nashville authorities and offered counseling resources to members of the MU community.

Strain’s fraternity, Delta Chi, also issued a statement on March 12, saying it was aware that Strain had gone missing, and added that the fraternity was “actively engaged” with university officials.

“Delta Chi is hopeful for Riley’s safe return; our thoughts are with his family and the members of the Missouri Chapter during this time,” the organization said.

Additionally, fraternity’s CEO Karl Grindel asked that journalists not reach out to individual fraternity members, according to NBC News.

Riley Strain's body was found

Strain’s body was recovered from the Cumberland River in West Nashville, about eight miles from downtown, police said in a statement on X on March 22.

“No foul play-related trauma was observed,” police said in the statement. “An autopsy is pending.”

On March 25, spokesperson for the Nashville PD Kristin Mumford told NBC News that Strain's death appeared to be “accidental” with no foul play-related trauma. At the time, Mumford noted that the toxicology was pending and the medical examiner would complete the autopsy report when all testing is done.

Riley Strain's cause of death

Strain's completed autopsy was released on June 18 and confirmed that he died as a result of drowning and heavy drinking.

“Riley Strain, a 22 year-old-male, died as a result of drowning and ethanol intoxication,” Assistant Medical Examiner Gulpreet Singh Bowman wrote in the autopsy report. It noted that there were no signs of external trauma to his body.

According to the Mayo Clinic, ethanol intoxication, known as alcohol poisoning, happens when drinking large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time.

Strain’s blood alcohol level at the time of his death was .228%, the report states. He also tested positive for isopropanol alcohol, caffeine, cotinine, nicotine and THC.

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