The authorities had rushed to the scene when Jill Walker found her daughter unresponsive in her bedroom. The 16-year-old Emma Walker was a popular, bubbly Central High School cheerleader. Initially, her death seemed like suicide but the initial assumption of suicide soon changed when evidence pointed to murder.
After investigation, it was revealed that ‘Death of a Cheerleader’ chronicles how a tumultuous relationship resulted in a fatal conclusion for Emma Walker. Are you curious to learn more about this case? If you are, you are in the right place as we will tell you everything you need to know about her case in this article.
Who is Emma Walker? How did she die?
Emma Jane Walker was born on 20th March 2000 in Knoxville, Tennessee, United States. She used to live with her parents and she was best described as a vibrant and warm-hearted person with a beautiful smile.
Emma used to study at Central High School in Knoxville and take part in various clubs at the school. She was a cheerleader in her school and she had wanted to become a neonatal nurse when she grew up and had a soft corner for animals. Basically, she had a very bright future ahead of her.
On 21st November 2016, Emma’s mother went to wake her daughter for school at around 6 am. But she got no response from Emma so they barged into her room. Emma’s mother, Jill couldn’t feel a pulse so her terrified mother called 911 immediately.
Emma was found in her bed when the authorities arrived. Later, two bullet holes were discovered in the bedroom walls after the assessment of the room. She had a gunshot wound behind her wound and another bullet was lodged in the pillow. The neighbor’s also reported that they had heard gunshots at around 2:30 am and the authorities also found 9mm shell casings outside the house.
Who is the culprit behind Emma’s murder?
There was one name that repeatedly came up when the police interviewed Emma’s loved ones. As you can guess, it was none other than William Riley Gaul. Emma began dating Riley when she was a freshman in 2014. Riley was also a junior and the wide receiver of the school’s football team.
Their relationship was going well at the beginning but things soon started to turn when friends noticed that they argued all the time. They had an on-and-off relationship and the people who knew their relationship also said that Riley was controlling and possessive.
Furthermore, Ema’s mother Jill also stated that Riley would try to control what Emma could and couldn’t wear to the point she ended up saying something to Emma about it. Things became intense between the couple and Riley had started waiting for Walker outside of the supermarket where she worked.
Riley would even send Emma hateful messages as well, according to friends. There was this one particular alarming message that he wrote, “You’re dead to me… I’ll check the obituary… —- you.” As a result, Emma’s parents tried to limit how she talked to Riley and urged her to break up with him. But unfortunately, their relationship continued despite all the warnings from her parents.
Emma was in her junior years whereas Riley was a freshman at college during the fall of 2016. Her parents hoped that things would change if they grounded their daughter during Halloween so they grounded her. Finally, Emma decided to end things with Riley for good. Unfortunately, Riley didn’t respond to that too well and tried to kill himself by ingesting Vicodin with alcohol. Thus, the days leading up to Emma’s murder were fraught with a couple of bizarre incidents.
The bizarre incidents before the murder of Emma
Emma received some alarming messages from an unknown number while she was at a friend’s house on 18th November 2016. The texts threatened her to do what she was told or else someone close to her would get hurt. She got a message that stated that Riley was outside and so Emma and a friend went outside and found him in a ditch.
At that time, he had claimed to have been kidnapped but the police were never contacted about the incident. Even his friend Noah Walton didn’t believe that Riley was abducted. The following morning, someone dressed in black clothes repeatedly rang her doorbell and banged on the door which made Emma scared.
Emma’s mother suspected that Riley was somehow connected to the incidents. Furthermore, the police also learned from Riley’s friend that he had stolen his grandfather’s gun, a 9mm firearm. The investigators also found that he feared someone was after Emma and him.
Riley claimed that he had nothing to do with Emma’s death and denied taking the gun when the investigators questioned him. Moreover, one of the friends also told the police that Riley had asked how he could remove fingerprints from a gun. As a result, the authorities started to suspect Emma’s ex-boyfriend. Two of Riley’s friends even worked with the police to arrest him. Riley wanted help to get rid of the gun so the two friends went with him while wearing a wire. Unfortunately, he got arrested by the authorities when she tried to dump the gun in a river.
What happened to William Riley Gaul? Where is he now?
Riley had carried a trash bag that contained the murder weapon, some black clothing, gloves, with some other things. Thus, the authorities believed that he was the culprit behind Emma’s door before her death. In May 2018, Riley stood trial for the murder and the defense claimed that he only meant to scare Emma and he didn’t intend to kill her.
However, Riley was found guilty of first-degree murder, stalking, theft, reckless endangerment, and possession of a firearm during a dangerous felony. Ultimately, he was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 51 years.
Later, he confessed to his crime and he apologized to Emma’s parents. During sentencing, he said, “I’m sorry I took Emma away from you, that I robbed you of the experience of watching your daughter grow up. What I can do is tell the truth about that night… I wanted to scare her… I never meant to take Emma’s life. Again I am sorry.”
At the present, Riley remains incarcerated at the Northwest Correctional Complex in Tiptonville, Tennessee.