Emma Walker: The absolute tragedy of a 16-year-old girl.

She was killed by her ex-boyfriend.

Emma Walker. Image from The Cinemaholic.

Born and raised in Tennessee, Emma Walker was known for her extremely kind and pleasant demeanor. She had a passion for cheerleading and was the only freshman to make it onto her high school cheerleading team in 2014. It was during her freshman year that she met a boy named Riley who was two years older than her and on the school’s football team. He was known to be a Star Wars nerd who actively attended church.

At first, it seemed like every perfect love story where the football star falls madly in love with the cheerleader, but Emma’s parents quickly noticed that Riley was possessive. He wanted nothing to do with Emma’s friends, and he also didn’t want Emma to spend time with her friends. He began trying to control what she wore and he would go to her work and spend hours waiting for her to finish her shift.

After a few weeks of having an on and off relationship, Riley began sending Emma aggressive Snapchat messages saying that he wanted to kill her and threatening to kill himself if she broke up with him. The young couple fell into a horrible cycle of terrible fights, breakups, and then getting back together. Understandably, Emma's parents did not like Riley and later claimed that they never trusted him. Her parents banned Riley from coming over to the house and they took Emma’s phone in hopes of controlling the situation.

Riley graduated from high school two years later, but that did not keep him from Emma. Emma found ways to communicate with him and despite her parent's best efforts, they maintained somewhat of a relationship. Her parents became desperate and they did not allow Emma out of the house except to go to school and practice. Her parents later reported that Emma was starting to get better and she seemed happier, but it wasn’t long after that when Emma finally found the courage to leave Riley for good.

Emma had seen pictures of Riley with other girls on his college campus and decided that if he wasn’t going to take the relationship seriously, then she wasn’t going to either. Riley did not take the breakup well and tried to overdose but he survived. On November 18th, Emma’s school played a big football game and there was a party afterward. Emma went to the party where she started to receive very worrying text messages from an unknown number.

One of the text messages read, “I have someone you love if you don’t comply I will hurt them.” And she received a few others saying she needed to come outside. Emma thought that it could have been Riley’s friends playing a prank on her since they had just broken up but then she got a text message she could not ignore. Whoever was texting her was claiming that there was a body outside in the bushes. Unable to ignore the messages any longer, Emma took her friends outside to investigate. When they walked out the door, they found a man facedown in the bushes and soon realized that it was Riley.

Riley was very much alive, but he appeared confused and claimed that someone had kidnapped him. He said that he had no idea where he was or how he got there, and he kept rubbing his head as if someone had hit him there. After a brief and nonsensical interaction between the group, Riley called a friend to pick him. Later during an interview, his friend stated that even at the time he did not believe Riley’s story. The following day after the party, Emma texted Riley saying that she hated him, but that she needed him. Riley came over and the two sat on her driveway talking for hours. When Emma’s mom finally came home and found them sitting there, she asked Riley to leave and he did.

During the middle of the night, Emma’s dad heard a loud banging noise in the house. The noise startled him awake but it wasn’t until he heard the noise again that he got up to investigate. He went to check on Emma by going into her room and stated that he saw her lying in bed appearing to be asleep like normal. At 6:00 AM later that morning, Emma’s mom went into her room to wake her up for school, but she would not wake up. The mom shook her leg, looked at her face, and checked for a pulse only to discover that Emma did not have one. Absolutely frantic, Emma’s mom dialed 911.

Upon arrival, the paramedics immediately thought Emma had tried to commit suicide by overdose. It wasn’t until the detectives showed up at the crime scene that they noticed a hole in her bedroom wall. They realized that someone had shot a gun twice through the hole, and found both bullets lodged in the wall. It was apparent to the detectives that whoever shot twice, knew exactly where her room was, and where her bed was located. When the investigators began asking her friends if there was anyone who would try to harm Emma, Riley’s name kept coming up.

One of Riley’s friends told the police that Riley had mentioned he had taken a gun from his grandparents for protection the week before Emma’s death and by the following morning, Riley was considered a person of interest. During the police interview, Riley refused to use Emma’s name, and would only refer to as “the girl”. Quickly the police noticed how emotionless and detached Riley was, and it certainly did not help that the story he told the police regarding where he was the night of Emma’s death made very little sense.

After the police interviews, two of Riley’s close friends decide to help the police because they were convinced that Riley had killed Emma. They went to his house with mics and cameras that were given to them by the police to try and get him to confess. While they were all sitting around talking, Emma came up in the conversation but Riley continued to deny having anything to do with her murder. However, towards the end of the conversation, Riley asked his two friends to help him get rid of the gun. His friends tried to convince him that he would not need to get rid of the gun if he didn’t do anything wrong, but Riley insisted. The three of them got in a car and started to drive to a nearby river with the gun in the car. Once at the river, the two friends, Alex and Noah, texted the police and told them to come. Just as Riley was pulling the gun from the car, the police showed up.

At the scene, police arrested Riley and took him into custody. He was later charged with first-degree murder and six felonies after his trial in 2018. Despite her parent's best efforts to keep her safe, Emma’s life was cut short by her ex-boyfriend on November 21, 2016, when William Riley Gaul shot her in her own bed. Riley is now serving a life term with the possibility of parole after a long 51 years.




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Dani Hendrix

Dani Hendrix

I love writing true crime and fascinating stories about humans. You can find me on Instragram at @restless_dani if you would like to connect.