It was November 2016. Emma Walker, a 16-year-old cheerleader at Central High School in Knoxville, Tennessee, was found dead by her mother, Jill, in her bedroom. Jill said that at this point she called the police and she doesn’t remember much of what came next. I can’t imagine anyone could if they were put in the same situation.
When police arrived, they discovered bullet holes in her walls, as well as one on the side of her head near her ear. Someone had shot into the room from outside, killing Emma.
Emma’s ex-boyfriend, Maryville College football player William Riley Gaul, was recently convicted of
William Gaul and Emma Walker were on again, off again through high school and into Gaul’s freshman year of college. Emma’s friends and family gave the police Gaul’s name. Emma’s parents outlined how Gaul went back to an ex-girlfriend while they were dating, and played girls. The Walkers monitored their daughters texts and Snapchats. Upon seeing the way he had treated talked to her, they thought it important that police spoke to him.
Leading up to her death, Emma had officially ended the relationship. However this didn’t stop Gaul from reaching out to her numerous times afterwards. That’s when things started to get weird.
Emma began to receive text messages from an anonymous number claiming that Gaul had been kidnapped. After one of those texts she found him in a ditch outside a friend’s home. The next day an unidentified man dressed in black showed up at the Walker home, banged on the door, and tried to force his way in.
This led Emma to ask her parents to activate their home security system. This was completely out of character for Emma. The household was swirling with drama after the toxic relationship had ended, and unfortunately tumbled into tragedy with Emma’s death.
After Emma’s murder, Gaul was acting very unusual. His friends were worried about him. Alex McCarty went to Riley’s house in order to check on him. During this time, Gaul showed McCarty the gun he had stolen from his grandfather. He claimed it was for protection. He was scared for his own safety, as well as Emma’s, which was why he had taken it.
Authorities brought McCarty in for questioning, and he told them about the gun, which Gaul apparently had not done. However McCarty didn’t think twice about it because his friend had told him he had nothing to do with the murder, and he believed him. It wasn’t until Gaul started trying to concoct a story for McCarty and Noah Walton that the boys realized Gaul was lying to them.
McCarty and Walton worked with police to get proof from Gaul that he had done it, and catch him with the gun. The boys wore wires and went to Gaul to help him get rid of the gun. Throughout the night, detectives were staying close by, tailing the car as the boys drove out to throw the gun into a lake.
McCarty and Walton were part of a group text with the police while they were with Gaul. Their objective was to get a clear view of the gun and give police a code word when they were successful. It took multiple attempts, but eventually Gaul removed the gun from a plastic trash bag he had been hiding it in. Once in view, Walton gave the word and police surrounded the teens and took Gaul into custody less than two minutes later.
During his trial, defense attorneys were not trying to deny that Riley Gaul pulled the trigger. They tried to prove that the murder was an accident, and was not premeditated. It’s clear that Emma had turned into an obsession for Gaul and there was almost nothing he wouldn’t do to win her back.
This leads us to the tragic circumstance surrounding Emma’s death. In an apparent effort to play “hero”, Gaul stole his grandfather’s 9mm handgun, went to
Instead, Gaul’s hero plan remained villainous. Emma was shot and killed by one of those bullets in her sleep.
After her death, Central High School players wore purple armbands in remembrance. This past May, which would have been the end of Emma’s senior year, she was remembered at graduation. A portion of the graduation was used as a memorial for their fallen classmate. The Walkers were on hand to place a mortarboard on an empty chair during the ceremony, and take part in a moment of silence. In his address, Principal Michael Reynolds explained the significance of the Tolling of the Bell ceremony, and reminded students that Emma Walker was still with them on that day.
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