Riley Strain's mother, father and stepfather are appreciative and grateful for two weeks of work to find their 22-year-old son in Nashville.

Speaking individually, Ryan Gilbert (father), Chris Whiteid (stepdad) and Michelle Whiteid (mother) promise the love, support and prayers the community has shown them will not be forgotten.

"The grace that you've given us, it means a lot," Chris Whiteid remarked during a 7-minute press event on Friday night (March 22).

Michelle's comments — while short — were particularly emotional.

  • University of Missouri student Riley Strain had been missing since March 8.
  • Several street camera videos showed him walking toward, and then along, the Cumberland River in Nashville. He was ultimately found in the water.
  • He had been out with friends at numerous bars along Lower Broadway. His last stop was at Luke's 32 Bridge, named after Luke Bryan.

"I just ask that you mamas out there hug your babies tight tonight, please," she said as tears started. "Please for me, hug your babies tight tonight. And again thank you. Thank you for sharing our story."

This was not the outcome they hoped for, but they expressed some relief that it's over.

"And those of you that helped us keep Riley’s face in front of the cameras, you’ve helped us get some closure here and let us take our boy home," Gilbert said.

Cajun Navy leader David Flagg also spoke briefly, and together the group presented a united front. From the beginning, MNPD and the family have indicated that there'd been cooperation between them. The Cajun Navy's arrival earlier this week was met with a warm welcome publicly.

Flagg even thanked media for being respectful — something he said is rare in these types of cases. Collectively, the show of support "has given us faith" in humanity, Chris Whiteid said.


Fox17 and WSMV in Nashville both carried the press conference live. The family begins to speak at about the 3:30 mark in the above video.

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Gallery Credit: Billy Dukes