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At central High institution in Knoxville, Tennessee, a Friday night in autumn method a football stadium bathed in lights and also two groups battling it the end on the gridiron in front of a sea the red and black -- anyone decked out in assistance of the house team, the Bobcats.
"(On Fridays) everybody"s excited at institution to see just how well we do. It"s what our school revolves around," stated Seth Armstrong, a recent main High graduate who played for the team. "It"s exciting."
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Out in front of the crowd, the marching band and also cheerleaders keep the power high, and also in the fall of 2014, there to be a brand-new face ~ above the cheerleading squad – a spirited 14-year-old freshman called Emma Walker.
“Emma really took cheerleading seriously,” said Lauren Hutton, that was a an elderly on the squad once she met Walker and the 2 became an excellent friends. “She really loved law it. The was among her passions. She love leading and she loved football games. She loved just being component of crowd appeal.”
Courtesy pedestrian Family
Sixteen-year-old Emma pedestrian was a beautiful, vibrant and also warm-hearted cheerleader and also high school student.
Early the fall, Walker’s moves on the sidelines caught the eye of an older student, Number 8 – central High’s wide receiver and then-junior Riley Gaul.
Raised through his mother and grandparents, Gaul to be a peak student and also loved come play video games. Friends described him together a jokester, no the “classic jock” type.
“He to be a small nerdy ~ above the side,” said Zach Greene, among Walker"s friends. “A little to himself … native the external looking in, you"d think he was just a typical guy.”
When Walker"s parents first met Gaul, they stated their first impressions that him to be positive.
“Boy next door,” her mommy Jill walker said. “He come in an extremely polite, really nice in the beginning. He was an extremely likable.”
“I thought he was a really nice feather young man, well-mannered,” her father note Walker added. “We would certainly let them have actually some oversaw visitation... He could come end to the house… they would accomplish up after ~ football games… come eat, and also things choose that.”
Emma Walker’s friends stated she appeared happy through Gaul in the beginning. Soon, the cheerleader"s society media accounts to be filled with images of a watch perfect pair paddle boarding together, embracing and taking stunner selfies.
In one post, pedestrian wrote, “Look how lucky i am.”
At first, the relationship seemed “just type of normal," stated Keegan Lyle, among Walker"s best friends.
Friends said they flourished concerned due to the fact that it became noticeable to countless of them that Gaul didn’t desire Walker to cave out with anyone however him.
“He became kind of managing over her, what she did, her activities,” Keegan said.
“He buzzpatterson.comt more possessive and more clingy towards her, and also wouldn’t let she do details things,” Lauren Hutton added.
Courtesy pedestrian Family
Riley Gaul continued to repeatedly call Emma walker after their breakup.
Over the next two years, Walker and also Gaul seemed to end up being that other classic high school couple, the type that was always breaking up and getting back together. Friends explained “really dramatic” disagreements between the two, regularly over text blog post or Snapchat posts.
Jill Walker stated Gaul would constantly comment top top what she daughter wore, telling her what she should and shouldn’t wear, to the point where she claimed she ended up speak something come Emma around it.
Then, Lauren Hutton said, things became “intense” in between the couple. She said Gaul began waiting because that Walker outside of the supermarket wherein she worked.
“He would just wait exterior for hours,” Hutton said.
Lyle stated friends told walker that castle didn’t favor the way Gaul treated her, however “she just kind of brushed it off,” Lyle said. “She buzzpatterson.com her own thing.”
According come Walker’s friends, Gaul ended up being aggressive, sending her Snapchat messages that said, “I hate you I dislike everything about you” and also “you’re the biggest bitch I’ve ever before come in call with.”
One post in particular alarmed Walker’s mother. “You’re dead come me… I’ll examine the obituary… ---- you,” Gaul wrote.
“We, top top one occasion, saw one
Walker’s parents made decision to ban Gaul from their home and they took away their daughter’s cellphone to shot to prevent the teenagers from communicating, but it didn’t work.
“Riley provided Emma one iPod Touch and she texted him v the WiFi,” Walker’s girlfriend Seth Armstrong said.
For every nasty post Gaul sent Walker, over there was also a rapid apology. “Emma, i’m sorry for but I act,” one article from Gaul said. “I love you more than words have the right to describe,” claimed another.
Jill Walker said they advised your daughter to break-up with Gaul “several times.”
“But as you do that v a teenager, the an ext you butt heads, the much more she is buzzpatterson.coming come think the is in the right,” she said. “Because he had a way of isolating her and also making she think that he to be the only one.”
By autumn 2016, Emma Walker and also Gaul to be still dating. Gaul had actually graduated and was an 18-year-old freshman at a surrounding college by then, and Walker remained in her small year the high school, but their tumultuous connection had continued despite her parents’ attempts to keep them apart.
Around Halloween the year, Walker’s parents determined to ground her - not permitting her to leaving the house except to walk to school and also cheerleading. They started monitoring all over she walk and, to their surprise, it appeared to work.
“She did end up being like her old self again,” she father note Walker said. “She would certainly come the end of her room, eat dinner with us, and also socialize with us.”
Walker had also texted her friend Keegan Lyle to say she and Gaul were “done because that buzzpatterson.comod.”
“She just came to the realization the she deserved better,” Lyle said. “Then we"re all like, ‘yes finally, it"s happening.’ We"re like, what we"ve been waiting for.’”
But Gaul didn"t it seems to be ~ to take it the breakup well. While in his college dorm room, he swallowed a bunch that Vicodin pills and also washed castle down with alcohol in an attempt to buzzpatterson.com suicide. His friends observed his atmosphere swings.
"He would certainly be off to the side, moping ... (and) saying points like, "Oh, I just feel for this reason depressed. I desire to pains myself." Blah, blah, blah, blah,” claimed Gaul"s friend Alex McCarty. "Just points that that would simply say a lot together a cry because that help, ns guess, in a way."
Then top top Friday, Nov. 18, 2016, walker was allowed to to visit a gathering at a friend’s house. Roughly 11:30 p.m. The night, her friend and classmate Zach Greene landed on the home where they were hanging out and also Walker pulled him aside. She told the she had actually been receiving strange text messages from a number she didn’t recognize.
“She"s like, ‘Zach, I"m getting these yes, really weird text messages
She proved him she phone, that said.
"buzzpatterson.com to your vehicle with your keys," claimed one text message. Then, "buzzpatterson.com alone," stated another, and another said, "I"ve gained someone girlfriend love. If girlfriend don"t comply I will hurt them."
Greene said that Walker assumed it was among Gaul"s friends play a prank top top her, however that she texted back, threaten to call the police. The text messages, however, became more menacing, Greene said.
"If you"d like to hear his crying and also screams offer him a call," claimed one message.
Greene claimed Walker began begging him because that help, until he said, "Eventually she comes out and says, "Zach, listen. They said they reduce Riley outside.""
He and Walker went outside and sure enough, the said, they found "a body lying confront down" in a ditch near the house. Under the glow from the streetlight, the said, they can see the it to be Gaul.
"We lastly get come him and also he"s pulling up his head, sort of, has this confused face on," Greene said. "Emma"s like, "Why space you here?" He"s like, "I don"t recognize what happened" ns don"t know exactly how I obtained here. I"ve to be kidnapped. Who dropped me turn off here" ns don"t recognize what"s happening" whereby am I? How"d I acquire here?" hold his head like he acquired hit upside the head type of. It was just very weird."
Walker was instantly uneasy, Greene said, and she didn"t really recognize what come think.
"She"s simply like, "We just damaged up. Leave me alone,"" he said.
Seemingly dejected, Gaul to walk off under the street, alone. He dubbed his friend Noah Walton and told him he had actually been kidnapped that night, but Walton didn’t think a word of it.
"He sounded favor he"d to be crying or he to be sounding fatigued, i guess," Walton told "20/20." "He basically told me that these people knocked him out, took his car and threw him in a van and also he didn"t understand where that was."
He claimed Gaul called him not to contact 911 come report the alleged incident.
"He was simply like, "No, no cops. No cops,"" claimed Walton.
Additionally, nobody of Walker"s girlfriend contacted the authorities around the alleged kidnapping the night.
The following morning, walker went home. However then she texted she friends, saying a stranger to be at her doorstep.
“I’m residence alone and also somebody in all black walked under my street and also came to mine door and also rang the doorbell over and also over again,” pedestrian texted, adding “I believed I was buzzpatterson.coming come die.”
She additionally texted Gaul, saying, “I dislike you yet I require you right now."
“I’m coming… ns speeding just offer me a minute,” Gaul texted her back.
When pedestrian failed to fulfill up v her mother that morning as planned, Jill Walker returned to home and found her daughter and also Gaul in the front yard.
Her daughter was visibly shaken, and thought it might have to be a housebreaker or maybe even a stalker. Jill, however, wasn"t convinced.
"I said to Emma, don"t you find it odd that Riley to be involved, or showed up at both events. She said, no that wasn"t him Mom, the wasn"t him," Jill called "20/20."
"He"s make the efforts to get her fist to speak to him. And also buzzpatterson.coming method overboard to carry out that," she added.
“I was worried and we were watching her,” Jill pedestrian said. “
By Sunday night, points seemed abuzzpatterson.com to regular at the walker household. Emma texted with her friend Keegan Lyle about a homework assignment, then went to bed a tiny after midnight.
A little after 6:00 a.m. Top top Monday, Nov. 21, 2016, Jill Walker went into her daughter’s room however she can not wake her up.
"(I) stated her name, didn"t hear anything, bumped her leg, didn"t listen anything," Jill pedestrian said. "And then looked at she face and also realized ... And also checked for a pulse and couldn"t uncover anything. I don"t mental a entirety lot native that. I know I referred to as 911."
"I just tried to wake up my daughter for school," Jill pedestrian told the 911 operator. "She"s, she"s 16."
"You stated that she"s nonresponsive?" the 911 operator inquiry her.
"Yeah," Jill walker said, sobbing.
Police were sent to the walker house. Knox ar Sheriff"s Deputy Nikki Bules, the lead forensic technician ~ above the case, claimed the speak to originally came in together a feasible suicide.
"When I very first buzzpatterson.comt there, I began my photographs ~ above the external of the residence. I walked in, photographed the interior of the residence. Walked into the bedroom photographed the bedroom," Bules said. "There to be a feet in the wall. ... It appeared to be a bullet hole."
"At the point, i knew the it probably was not a suicide," she added.
When Knox ar Sheriff"s Lt. Allen Merritt arrived on the scene, he said he began looking at the exterior of the house and also noticed a bullet hole in the wall surface that to be "about shoulder high."
"It"s just a little bullet hole. Just, friend know, about the size of a ballpoint ink pen," he said.
He then situated two covering casings exterior the home, for this reason he knew two shots had been fired. Walking about outside the home, that eventually uncovered a second bullet hole on a different side the home at around the same height as the first.
"To one investigator, that tells me the the two shots were much more than most likely fired by the very same suspect," he said.
Emma Walker, a beautiful and also vibrant cheerleader, had actually been eliminated by a gunshot wound come the head after 2 bullets had actually been fired right into her bedroom from exterior the family"s single-story home. One bullet had hit she behind she left ear and also the 2nd had lodged right into her pillow.
"Once the detective gained there, we were inquiry to leaving the residence," Jill pedestrian said. "So obviously it had turned right into a crime scene at that point. Therefore they to be wrapping tape roughly our house, and also walking around outside, but we still had no idea what had happened come her."
When police began interviewing Emma Walker’s friends and family members the day, Merritt stated the exact same name maintained coming up over and over again.
"Everybody kept providing us the name Riley Gaul due to the fact that of their relationship, due to the fact that they had actually seen the way that Riley had actually treated her, the means he"d speak to her," Merritt said.
Gaul took to social media come mourn Walker, posting a series of tweets and also a lengthy Facebook post. In one tweet, the wrote, "Rest easy currently sweetheart. Ns love you forever and also always."
"What stood out to me from this tweets instantly was the repeated nature of the saying, "I love you. Ns love you. I love you,"" said Madisen Keavy, a reporter at alphabet Knoxville affiliate WATE who spanned the story. "Only discovering those posts around him, if you just read that, if you simply saw that, you would think the this was an ex-boyfriend who just lost his an initial love."
Walker"s friends and also family were devastated. The night after she death, they organized a candlelight vigil at central High, and her fellow cheerleaders exit balloons in her memory at that week"s Bobcats’ football game.
Gaul’s friends became concerned with his well-being. So complying with Emma’s death, lock told detectives a secret Gaul had shared v his friend, Alex McCarty, the day after Gaul"s alleged kidnapping.
"He ended up informing me... That he was so fearful for his life the he had actually stolen his grandfather"s gun and he showed it to me," McCarty relayed come “20/20”. "I was very worried. ... He reassured me over and also over again the he to be the farthest thing from suicidal. He was just so scared of these people who were the end to acquire him, were out to obtain Emma."
But Walton, an additional friend, additionally told detectives that Gaul had asked him how to get fingerprints turn off a gun.
"He said he was asking for his roommate," Walton said "20/20." "I called him, "Obviously not and also not to ever ask me anything favor that again." and also he said, "I know. Ns know. It was for mine roommate. I thought it was weird.""
Detectives brought Gaul in for questioning top top Monday around his whereabouts throughout the ahead 72 hours. Gaul stated he thought he had actually spent Friday night in ~ his girlfriend Noah Walton’s house.
During his two-hour police interrogation, Gaul didn’t referred to Emma pedestrian by name, only calling her "the girl."
"The girl, she texted me," Gaul said detectives.
"Which girl?" Merritt said.
"The one that passed away," Gaul said.
“When I an initial met that (Gaul), I assumed he might"ve been a grieving boyfriend,’ Det. James Hurst told “20/20.” “When we buzzpatterson.comt into the interview room and sat down, ns felt like there to be a dark side. The didn"t have actually a entirety lot of enthusiasm or concern.”
Gaul said detectives he had actually been trying come speak with Walker the weekend, but she wouldn"t interact with him.
"But she stated if ns would assist her create her paper, she would certainly talk to me," Gaul told detectives. "And (Sunday night) I supplied one of my friends" phones top top campus to speak to her."
"Our phone contact didn"t buzzpatterson.com an extremely well," that said. "She just told me a bunch of cruel stuff, and she blocked his (friend"s) number."
Afterward, Gaul told detectives, he went over to his grandparents" home briefly and also then drove earlier to his college. Once there, Gaul said, he broke down and cried for "two, three hours" in his auto over breaking up with Walker.
But, as he was describing this in the interrogation room, Merritt claimed Gaul to be "emotionless."
"His interview was most likely one the the many disconnected. It almost seemed rehearsed, deliberate," Merritt called "20/20."
At this point, detectives claimed they knew from McCarty the Gaul had presented his girlfriend his grandfather"s gun. Gaul"s grandfather, who had actually kept the gun in his car, had actually reported the 9mm handgun absent prior come Gaul gift questioned.
Detectives request Gaul about the gun, however he told them he didn"t understand where that was. That denied showing it to McCarty and additionally denied asking Walton around removing fingerprints from a gun.
Then detectives asked to see his cellphone and also Gaul asked them if he was a suspect. “Should you be?,” the detective responded. But Gaul continued to deny having anything to execute with Walker"s death.
When Gaul left the sheriff"s office, McCarty said he started acquiring text messages from him, questioning why he had actually told the police around the gun. In text messages, Gaul asked his friends not to speak to the police anymore.
"He to be on edge," Walton said.
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Thinking Gaul was lying to authorities, Walton and McCarty climate collaborated through police to help them put a trap. ~ above Tuesday night - just one job after Walker"s murder, detectives wired the two teens up through microphones, a transmitter whereby police might listen in, and also a video clip camera covert in a crucial fob, and planned the end a sting operation to recoup the potential murder weapon.
"Those two young men contacted us and also asked if castle could assist us gain what they believed to it is in the murder weapon back," Merritt told "20/20." "Obviously there"s pertains to for their safety. We went over all that v them and they to be still adamant, really adamant the they wanted to carry out this. They taken the dangers and the concerns, yet they wanted to do it."