A spokesman for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) has confirmed that Shandle Marie Riley—a woman who claimed a Hamilton County deputy baptized her against her will at a traffic stop—was found dead.
Riley's body was found at her home on Log Cabin Lane in Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee on Wednesday, April 13.
The Hamilton County Medical Examiner announced it will conduct an autopsy. TBI will wait for the autopsy results before determining whether Riley was a victim of foul play.
You can watch the news report about Riley's death below.
Riley first made headlines in 2019 after she claimed former Hamilton County Sheriff's Deputy Daniel Wilkey baptized her against her will.
Chief United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee Travis Randall McDonough said the incident violated Riley's choice of religion as well as the state's own duty to respect the choices of its citizens.
In his ruling, McDonough said when citizens are subjected to "state-sponsored religious exercises," the state "disavows its own duty to guard and respect that sphere of inviolable conscience and belief which is the mark of a free people."
"Baptism of detainees by law-enforcement officers runs directly counter to the government's substantial interest in guaranteeing the free exercise of religion without government intervention."
"Any seizure for the purpose of conducting a baptism intruded upon [the woman's] liberty without furthering any government interest and was therefore unreasonable."
Just last week, McDonough ruled a lawsuit against Wilkey—who faces other lawsuits for use of excessive force related to other incidents—in connection with the baptism can proceed.
The news of Riley's death unnerved people both inside and outside the community amid concerns she had, in fact, been the victim of foul play.
Wilkey stopped Riley on Feb. 6, 2019 as she was driving through Soddy-Daisy. According to court documents, "Riley confessed to having a marijuana roach in her cigarette pack."
Wilkey searched Riley twice, at one point "inappropriately touched her crotch." Wilkey assured Riley that he would only write her a citation if she consented to Wilkey baptizing her because "God [was] talking to him."
Jacob Goforth, another deputy who was on the scene, recorded the baptism on his cellphone. Gorforth later said that he filmed the event “to protect all persons present and document the event,” according to court documents.