Now that a preliminary autopsy for Riley Strain is complete, police have evidence to support a theory about what happened to the 22-year-old.

More testing and a full toxicology report will need to be finished before authorities can be certain about what caused him to fall into Nashville's Cumberland River on March 8.

The preliminary autopsy changed very little.

  • Riley Strain's body was found in the Cumberland River on Friday (March 22).
  • The location of his body was eight miles downstream from where he was last seen.
  • He'd been asked to leave Luke Bryan's Luke's 32 Bridge bar on Lower Broadway before he disappeared.

What Happened to Riley Strain?

Strain's death appears to be accidental. The Tennessean spoke with a Metro Nashville Police Department spokesperson who said detectives attended the autopsy. No signs of foul play were present.

No timeline was given for how long the tox report would take.

Why This Matters

Last week, authorities and Strain's family praised how media covered this investigation, but begged people to quit speculating on social media. MNDP and the Cajun Navy presented a united front publicly, but there were plenty with no connection to the search who spread rumors and amplified conspiracy theories on X/Twitter and TikTok.

Two of the most popular theories were that Strain was drugged, or that Strain got into a car after exchanging pleasantries with a police officer along Gay St. That encounter with the cops is the final video to show him alive that was shared with the public.

The theory that suggests Strain got in a black or gray car also mutated into one that had him being kidnapped for a variety of reasons. All of these alternative theories lack motive, fall apart when details are thoroughly examined, and fail to explain how he ended up in the river.

The simplest theory has always been that the University of Missouri student fell into the river, perhaps under the influence of alcohol. Toxicology reports will share the truth there.

Riley Strain's Parents Speak Out

At a press conference assembled Friday evening, Strain's mother, father and stepfather all expressed gratitude for the community support they'd received over the last two weeks. No one suggested a continued vigilant search for something other than the accidental drowning explanation.

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

Neither Bryan nor the restaurant group that owns Luke's 32 Bridge has made a statement since a March 15 explanation of Strain's final moments in the bar.

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Gallery Credit: Billy Dukes