Family: Riley Strain Was 'Helped' Into River

Mom Michelle Whiteid says text message raises possibility that his drink was drugged
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 17, 2024 7:45 AM CDT
Updated Apr 21, 2024 1:00 PM CDT
Family: Riley Strain Was 'Helped' Into River
Michelle Strain Whiteid, left, mother of Riley Strain, holds on to the arm of her husband, Chris Whiteid, during a news conference at the Metro Nashville Police Department headquarters in Nashville, Tenn., Friday, March 22, 2024.   (Andrew Nelles/The Tennessean via AP)

Having had nearly a month to process Riley Strain's death in Nashville, mother Michelle Whiteid says she's bothered by text messages the 22-year-old sent her before he was asked to leave a downtown bar on March 8. Strain, whose body was discovered less than two weeks later in the Cumberland River in West Nashville without his pants or cowboy boots, had told his mother he was drinking a rum and coke but it "didn't taste good." "It tastes like barbecue," the University of Missouri student had said. "It sounds good, but it's not." At the time, Whiteid told Strain he probably shouldn't consume the drink. She now wonders "maybe there was something in it that shouldn't have been," she tells NewsNation's Brian Entin.

There's no mention of a barbecue-flavored rum and coke on the bar's menu. Whiteid and Entin discussed the possibility that the drink had been spiked with the date rape drug rohypnol. As of Friday, Nashville police told E! News "the case remains open and unclassified, pending the report from the medical examiner's office, which is awaiting toxicology reports." However, "there is no tangible reason to believe there was any foul play involved," a rep said. Police have indicated Strain must've fallen into the river, perhaps from the James Robertson Parkway bridge. However, stepfather Chris Whiteid concludes "he may have fallen, but someone helped him in the water," per NewsNation.

Family members have raised various issues around Strain's death, including a coroner's finding of a lack of water in Strain's lungs, which raises the possibility that he was dead before entering the water. Relatives are also concerned about his missing pants, wallet, and cowboy boots. According to Chris Whiteid, the last-known footage of Strain shows him approaching the James Robertson Parkway bridge while fully clothed. Family members say he was wearing a belt, which should've kept his pants secure. However, a forensic pathologist tells NewsNation that it's entirely possible "you could lose things" as Strain's body likely traveled eight miles undercurrent before surfacing. (More Nashville stories.)

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