A woman who accused two cops of forcibly baptizing has been mysteriously found dead.
According to WTVC, the body of Shandle Marie Riley was found by police at a home in Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee, on Wednesday. Her cause of death remains unknown at this time since officials at the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation are awaiting the autopsy results. It is also unknown if foul play was involved in her death. But the timing of her death is certainly suspicious as she was in the middle of a lawsuit against Hamilton County deputies Daniel Wilkey and Jacob Goforth for baptizing her against her will after a traffic stop in 2019.
Court documents from the time claimed that Wilkey pulled her car over in the driveway of her friend’s home in 2019, WTVC reported. Riley told the officer that she had just been at the gas station buying cigarettes and fuel. However, Wilkey believed that she might have been in possession of methamphetamine. The lawsuit alleged that the cop made Riley to get out of the vehicle and searched her “unlawfully.” It claimed that Wilkey told her to “reach under her shirt and pull out her bra and shake the bra and shirt,” to which she then requested a female officer to be present for the search. However, he replied that “the law did not require” it.
When Wilkey asked if she had anything illegal in the car, she reportedly said she had a marijuana “roach” hiding in the pack of cigarettes and handed the pack over to him. That’s when things took a bizarre turn…
Wilkey then proceeded to ask Riley if she was “saved” and believed in Jesus. The lawsuit claimed he “felt the spirit at the time,” telling the woman at the time:
“God was talking to him during the vehicle search and [he] felt the Lord wanted him to baptize the plaintiff.”
So what does he do? Wilkey reportedly told Riley that she would only be issued a criminal citation for marijuana possession rather than being sent to jail if she got baptized. The cop then ordered her to get towels to be used for the baptism and instructed her to follow him to his patrol car.
The two eventually arrived at Soddy Lake and were joined by Goforth. Wilkey allegedly told Riley that they needed a witness for the baptism to be legit. According to WTVC, Wilkey proceeded to strip down to his underwear and had them enter into the water. He then placed one hand on her back and the other on her chest and submerged her underwater for “several moments.” At that moment, Riley said she “felt horribly violated.”
Wilkey admitted to the incident in February 2019, but claimed she requested him to do it as a way of “turning her life away from drug abuse and crime.” But with Riley’s death, her lawsuit against the two men faces a potential hurdle. Her attorney Robin Flores said to WTVC:
“It could impact it negatively to the point where we would have nobody to continue to prosecute it.”
He insisted that the cause can still move forward since “her deposition has already been done” and “her testimony is preserved.” However, Flores noted that it all comes down to whether her two surviving children want to take over the case in Riley’s place:
“If we can meet all these requisites, I fully intend to finish the prosecution of this case in federal court, it needs to be prosecuted. I think the history of it in the media will show that a baptism by a police officer in the line of duty, in exchange for leniency in a criminal case is beyond the pale.”
We’ll have to wait and see what happens with the lawsuit. Our hearts go out to Riley’s family during this difficult time.