Riley Strain: Body of missing student found in Nashville's Cumberland River

Police said they recovered his body on Friday morning around eight miles from downtown.

Riley Strain
A recent photo of Riley Strain. (Chris Whiteid via AP)

The body of Riley Strain — the University of Missouri student who disappeared after a night out with fraternity brothers at a Nashville bar earlier this month — has been found, police said.

His body was found in the Cumberland River on Friday morning, “approximately 8 miles from downtown. No foul play-related trauma was observed. An autopsy is pending,” Metro Nashville police wrote on X.

Strain, a 22-year-old finance student who was set to graduate in May, had been drinking with friends at Luke’s 32 Bridge Food + Drink when he was kicked out for violating the bar’s “conduct standards” on March 8. The bar is owned by country music singer Luke Bryan and is located on Broadway, a downtown strip that’s popular among tourists.

In the days after his disappearance, police, the United Cajun Navy — a nonprofit search-and-rescue organization — and TikTokers had been searching for Strain.

What happened the night Strain disappeared

After leaving Luke’s 32 Bridge, Strain reportedly told his friends that he would walk the five blocks to their hotel, Tempo by Hilton. But he never made it back to the hotel, his friends said. Later that night, Strain’s cousin, Chelsea Strain, told Fox News Digital that those friends filed a missing persons report.

The bar said they provided police with camera footage, time-stamped photos of Strain there, staff accounts and transaction records. Here’s a timeline of the night (all times are local time).

7:30 p.m. - 8 p.m.

During a FaceTime call with his mother, Michelle, Strain says that he had already been to several bars that night before going to Luke’s 32, according to stepdad Chris Whiteid.

9:35 p.m.

Strain is escorted out of Luke’s 32 Bridge after buying one alcoholic drink and two waters.

“Our security team made a decision based on our conduct standards to escort him from the venue through our Broadway exit at the front of our building,” the bar said in a statement. “He was followed down the stairs with one member of his party. The individual with Riley did not exit and returned upstairs."

Riley Strain
Riley Strain. (Chris Whiteid via AP)

9:47 p.m.

A camera captures Strain walking across Gay Street with a crowd of people.

“Riley appears to be in a very good mood in the video, joking with fellow pedestrians. Riley is taking visibly large steps,” organizers of a GoFundMe page set up on behalf of Strain’s dad, Robert Gilbert, said of the security footage.

The GoFundMe added that at the end of the video, Strain is seen “sort of spinning around and stumbling” before turning back around to follow a woman wearing a cowboy hat and another person walking.

9:52 p.m.

This was the time Strain was last seen on Gay Street, according to Metro Nashville police.

10 p.m. - 10:30 p.m.

Strain’s phone last pinged near Public Square Park, located near the sheriff’s office and the Cumberland River, according to a Fox’s Nashville affiliate.

Family friend Chris Dingman told NewsNation that Strain’s last communication was a text message to a girl.

“She texted him to see how he was doing, if he was having fun. He sent kind of a scripted text back to her saying ‘Good lops,'” Dingman said.

Strain’s mother and stepfather have not been able to confirm who the girl was or if she was the last person he talked to. Dingman said it’s also unclear if the text message was a typo or slang.

"We know that Riley was possibly communicating with multiple people," he said.

On Monday, Nashville police released bodycam footage of Strain to quiet the rumors that he was being chased. In the video, he briefly exchanged greetings with a cop on Gay Street just before he disappeared. Strain, who was walking by himself, “did not appear distressed,” police said.

The search for Strain

Nashville police said at a March 14 press conference that there were no signs of foul play.

On X, the department shared a video that shows a police helicopter flying over Cumberland River to search the area. Detectives were also on the ground searching for evidence of Strain’s disappearance.

During a press conference on Tuesday, Strain's parents requested more resources to help find their son to “bring some more clues to light.”

The United Cajun Navy — which was established to help with the Hurricane Katrina disaster response — announced on Tuesday that they were helping search for Strain and would use a hovercraft and a pilot to look along the Cumberland River.

On Sunday, two TikTokers who joined the search were livestreaming their hunt for evidence near the Cumberland River. While they were walking, they stumbled upon his credit card which was peeking out under leaves on the river’s embankment, Fox News Digital reported.

Dingman told the outlet that the TikTokers, described as “young ladies,” reached out to Strain’s family after they found the credit card. Dingman added that even though the family was glad to have a lead, the discovery had left them with "a thousand more questions than answers."

Strain's body was found in the Cumberland River, police said. (Metro Nashville Police Department)
Strain's body was found in the Cumberland River, police said. (Metro Nashville Police Department)

Strain’s family is ‘struggling’

Strain’s family had expressed their frustration with the investigation, saying that it was riddled with “lots of confusion.”

“We’ve heard multiple people that have tried to call Crime Stoppers and leave tips and told they don’t know anything about a Riley Strain case,” Whiteid told NewsNation. “So, lots of confusion. We’re struggling. ... It’s disheartening.”

Whiteid had also told NBC News that earlier in the night, Strain told his parents that he had already been to several bars before going to Luke’s 32, but noted he didn’t sound like “he had been drinking a lot." He said that Strain continued to text his mom — whom he talked to “multiple times a day” — for some time after the call ended.

Whiteid said that several people shared "horror stories" with him after Strain went missing claiming they were allegedly drugged while out at Nashville bars.