TW: mentions of murder and suicide
Hello everyone! After the game we played, we’re back to our True Crime Series with another case! This is the awful case of Emma Walker, who was just a teen when she was killed. Don’t forget to place your thoughts and opinions in the comments and feel free to request any case (or a type of crime you would like to see covered on the series!) Thank you for your support!
Emma Jane Walker, daughter of Mark and Jill Walker, was born in march 20th, 2000 in a small town in Knoxville, Tennessee. She also had a brother named Evan.
Described as a super sweet and down to earth girl, she would do a lot of volunteer work, especially at the animal shelter. She was into competitive dance and cheerleading, but for being the pretty cheerleader, she was nothing like the stereotype, being very kind and friendly. She ambitioned to be a neonatal nurse and people only had nice things to say about her.
At 2014 she joined Central High School as a freshman, being the only freshman accepted at the cheer team, so she was very good, besides being an honor student and having quite a lot of friends. This year was also the year she met a boy named Riley Gaul. He was 2 years older than Emma and a star wide receiver at the school’s football team, being also very active in his church and a great student, just like Emma. Although Emma developed a big crush on him, he was dating someone else at the time - but it didn’t take long for him to break up with his current girlfriend to be with Emma, beginning their journey as the cliché romance story couple of the cheerleader and the football star.
Although this seems like a movie love story, Emma’s parents got a red flag pretty early on, when Riley broke up with his ex to be with Emma, but still promised her he would take her to prom, so although he was already dating Emma, he took the other girl to his junior prom, and only took Emma to the senior prom. This might seem not like a big deal, but to the parents it was, since they didn’t want her daughter getting hurt.
After this, the relationship just went downhill, since they would just break up and make up constantly, going on and off the relationship, having a lot of fights. Emma’s friends expressed their concerns with not only the fact that Riley didn’t want to meet them and get to know them, but he also didn’t want Emma to spend time with them, quickly becoming very possessive and controlling of her, to the point where he would want to control what she would wear, going to her work and waiting there hours until she got off and obsessively call and text when she did something without him.
This started escalating when he started to send aggressive messages via Snapchat, like “you’re dead to me, I’ll check the Obituary, f*** you”. He would also play mind games saying he would kill himself if she didn’t stay with him, which, of course, led to a very toxic relationship.
As this was getting more troubling, Emma’s parents banned Riley from their home and took Emma’s phone, in an effort to control the situation and break the vicious cycle of on and off that was created, but Riley quickly turned the situation around by giving her his iPod Touch so they could communicate.
After 2 years of this on and off relationship, Riley graduated and attended Maryville College, that stayed 30min away from Emma, so they were not quite apart yet, like her parents hoped to, so they took bigger measures by forbidding Emma to leave the house unless it was for school or practice. This actually worked as she was back at her happy self - that is until Thanksgiving break, where she saw a picture on Snapchat of Riley with another girl on campus, so she decided to end things for good. As predicted, Riley did not handle this well, drinking a bunch of alcohol and taking a lot of Vicodin pills in an attempt to kill himself - luckily unsuccessfully.
The Present Case
Friday, November 18th, Emma’s high school team won a football game so, that night, there was a celebration party going on, which Emma’s parents allowed her to attend, since she was doing so much better. Around 11:30pm, Emma started receiving very weird and sketchy texts threatening her, like: “I’ve got someone you love. If you don’t comply, I will hurt them… Come outside”. Emma got immediately worried but brushed it off being one of Riley’s friends cracking a joke - that is until the following text “He’s in the ditch beside the house. It’s a shame you can all of a sudden not value someone else’s life”, so she asked her friend to join her outside and see if everything was ok.
Once outside, they saw Riley face down near the end of the driveway, he stood up acting confused, saying he was kidnapped and someone drove him there, he didn’t remember a thing. Emma asked him to leave her alone, and so he did, calling his friend to pick him up and telling the same story - which he also didn’t buy.
The next day, at 10:15am, Emma was at home getting ready to meet her mom when someone started banging really hard on her front door. As she was home alone, she got frightened and ended up texting Riley saying she hated him, but she needed him, so he quickly got to her house. When her mother noticed she wasn’t showing up, she went home and saw Riley and Emma sitting on the driveway talking. She approached them and asked him to leave, and the complied.
Sunday, November 20th arrives and even though Emma was still pretty creeped out about what happened, she was starting to get more calm, her parents took her to work and back, to make sure she was ok and later in the evening she went to eat some ice cream with her dad. It was an uneventful day that culminated in a calm night, when she went to sleep.
Suddenly, in the middle of the night, her dad heard a loud banging noise, he said later in an interview it was like someone was inside the house and slammed the door really hard, so he got startled. Then he heard a second loud noise, so he quickly got up to go check on Emma and Evan, checking both their rooms. When he opened Emma’s door, she was calmly laying on her bed, what appeared to be sleeping. He scouted the whole house and saw nothing weird so he ended up convincing himself he dreamt it or imagined it, so he went back to bed.
The next day, Monday the 21st of November, both Mark and Jill were getting ready in their morning routines at 6am, when Jill decided to go wake up her daughter, as she usually did. She was normally easy to wake up so when her mom called her name several times, and bumped her legs with no response, she knew something was wrong, and that was when she looked at Emma’s face and checked her pulse, and she knew. She quickly called 911 and paramedics arrived pretty quickly.
You can see the 911 call HERE
When paramedics arrived, they first thought it was suicide, overdose, or a natural cause that made her die overnight and, when she didn’t come to school, the rumors were quick to spread, specially the first two causes of death.
Because she was so well known, vigil were being made, and there was a lot of public mourning and people really wanted to get to the bottom of what happened to her, so the investigation began.
Detectives when arriving at the crime scene, thought, as I said previously, that this was some accident or natural cause, but after further inspection they noticed a hole in the wall, the size of a pen - this showed that there were 2 bullets that were shot to the corner of the house, where her bed was - so this told investigators that the person who did this had to know exactly that this was Emma’s bedroom, and where her bed was.
Detectives started then making the typical questions of “do you know anyone that might have wanted to harm Emma?” and Riley’s name kept popping up, so police went to his dorm, but had nothing to connect him to the murder. That is until one of his friends, Alex, told the police that the Saturday before Emma’s death, Riley told him he had stole his grandfather’s gun “for protection”. This made Riley become a person of interest in Emma’s murder, so he was interviewed.
When Riley was asked where he was at the time of death, he said he was at his friend Noah’s house and he was “pretty sure he slept over”. Detectives found very weird that during the whole 2 hours of interview, Riley never said Emma’s name, only referring to her as “the girl” and “the girl who passed away”. When asked about the gun, he always denied it, no matter what they asked. His friend Noah later came forward and also said that Riley asking him if he knew how to take finger prints off a gun “for a friend”.
You can see the FULL interview HERE
So after Riley left the interview, he immediately texted his two friends asking why they snitched about the gun and asked them not to speak to the police any further since he needed time until he got rid of it so he didn’t got blamed by something “he didn’t do”.
At this point, Alex and Noah were pretty confident that he was the one who killed Emma, so they agreed to help him get rid of the gun, while secretly working with the police. So the next day, Alex and Noah went to Riley’s house to play videogames, while wearing mics and cameras from the police.
As their conversation reaches Emma, Riley started by denying any involvement and saying that he wanted his friend to take back their statements to the police by claiming they were on drugs, or something, and that the 3 should go dump the gun in the Tennessee river, to get rid of it.
So at this point, they got in the car and stopped at Riley’s stepdad house where he had hidden the gun in a trash bag, retrieved it and proceeded to stop to get fast food, before heading to a parking lot near the river. During all this time, the two friends were in contact with the police and, when Riley decided they should get out of the car and take the gun to the river, the police showed up and apprehended everyone there.
Riley was arrested and convicted of first-degree murder as well as 6 other felonies. When police got ahold of the trash bag and were looking for the gun, they also found Riley’s black clothing he wore that night.
In May 2018, in his trial, Riley’s defense team said this was not a murder but a reckless homicide, which caught the court by surprise since they just admitted he was the one who fired. However, the defense team claimed the shots being fired did not have the intent to kill her but yes to scare her, so she would ask him to come over and “save her”. Nevertheless, the prosecution was quick to call BS on this, since the way the shots were fired, it was very specifically in a place that had the intent to kill.
The were 30 witnesses at the trail and it took over one week, but in May 8th, 2018, Riley was charged with first-degree murder and sentenced to over 50 years in prison before he gets a chance for parole.
You can see the FULL trial HERE
So, what did you think about this case? Leave your opinions down below on the comments! Feel free to leave any suggestions as well, as I will always read everything with love! Hope you have a lovely day!