Chattanooga, TN — Over the years, the Free Thought Project has reported on some utterly bizarre behavior from law enforcement. From judges stealing women's underwear to police officers offering homeless people sh*t sandwiches, this behavior never ceases to amaze and infuriate. Adding to this long list of "weird sh*t cops do" was a story out of Chattanooga in 2019, in which a police officer stripped to his underwear and forcibly "baptized" a woman he was arresting for having a marijuana roach.
After this story garnered him national attention, an investigation was launched and Hamilton County Deputy Daniel Wilkey who was arrested last year and has been charged with more than 40 counts ranging from rape and sexual battery to oppression and extortion.
As we reported at the time, the case was swarmed in controversy as it would be revealed that during the investigation, the department magically lost months of dashcam footage containing alleged evidence of this extremely bad cop's crimes.
Now, however, the controversy has become deadly.
This week, Hamilton County deputies found the body of 42-year-old Shandle Marie Riley — the victim of deputy Wilkey — who had brought a lawsuit against the department for what they did to her.
Wednesday night, the Hamilton County sheriff's department recused themselves from the investigation, given their contentious ties to the case.
"TBI special agents are working a death investigation in Soddy-Daisy, after Hamilton County deputies initially responding to a call [Wednesday night] requested to recuse their agency from the investigation," Susan Niland, the public information officer for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, told the Chattanooga Times Free Press. "District Attorney General Neal Pinkston requested TBI agents investigate the death of Shandle Marie Riley, who was found deceased at a residence on Log Cabin Road. The Hamilton County Medical Examiner's Office will conduct an autopsy to determine the cause and manner of death. The investigation remains active and ongoing at this time."
Riley's cause of death is currently unknown and foul play has not been ruled out.
Riley's death means the lawsuit is not in peril.
"It could impact it negatively to the point where we would have nobody to continue to prosecute it," said Robin Flores, Riley's attorney.
According to News 9, Flores says a key factor will be whether Riley’s two surviving children want to take on the case, and 'fill her shoes' as plaintiffs.
"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," Flores said. "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."
As TFTP reported at the time, Wilkey, 28, was indicted on 44 charges stemming from allegations of inappropriate behavior and assault while he was working for the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office. Wilkey has been named, along with other HCSO deputies, in four lawsuits that accuse him of misconduct during traffic stops. The alleged misconduct ranges from a forced baptism, groping underage girls and an illegal, forcible drug search, AP reports.
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Riley announced in October 2019 that she was suing Hamilton County government and two Hamilton County Sheriff's deputies after she claims one of them stripped down to his underwear and forced her into Soddy Lake where he "baptized" her. Deputies Daniel Wilkey and Jacob Goforth are both named in the lawsuit.
According to Riley, the incident happened in February of 2019 as she was driving to a friends house where her child was staying. Riley was then pulled over by the two apparently insane deputies who accused her of having methamphetamine. She had none.
Riley was then forced out of the vehicle by the deputies who then searched her car without consent, the lawsuit states. According to the lawsuit, Wilkey then asked Riley to "reach under her shirt and pull out her bra and shake the bra and shirt." Riley says she asked if a female officer could be present for the search, to which Wilkey replied "the law did not require" it.
The officers then asked Riley if she had anything illegal and she told them she had a marijuana roach in her pack of cigarettes. The horror. Upon hearing this, according to the lawsuit, Wilkey "insulted the plaintiff," calling her a "piece of s---," saying she was lying about not having other drugs. But the lawsuit says Wilkey found nothing other than the "roach."
After calling her a piece of sh*t and humiliating her, Wilkey then asked Riley if she was "saved" and if she believed in Jesus Christ. According to Riley, she responded that she believed in Jesus Christ but was not "saved" by her own choice.
Wilkey then told Riley that "God was talking to him during the vehicle search, and [he] felt the Lord wanted him to baptize the plaintiff.," and said that he felt "the spirit," according to the lawsuit.
News Channel 9 reported what happened next:
Wilkey then told Riley to get towels inside the home for a baptism, and said he would issue her only a criminal citiation for marijuana and not take her to jail, according to the lawsuit. Riley says she got the towels, and followed Wilkey in his patrol car, not saying where he was taking her. Riley says she was afraid to ignore Wilkey and not do as he commanded.
The two arrived at Soddy Lake, and were joined by Deputy Goforth. The lawsuit says Wilkey told Riley that Goforth was needed as a witness for the baptism to be "valid."
The lawsuit says Wilkey then stripped down to his boxer shorts, and gave Riley the option to remove her clothes, which she declined. It says Wilkey then led her to waist deep, cold water, put one hand on her back and the other on her breasts, and submerged her underwater for "several moments." At this moment, Riley says she "felt horribly violated."
Then, according to the lawsuit, Wilkey used one towel to dry off and let Riley dry off with the other one, while Goforth "smirked" at her as she was using it.
After humiliating her, kidnapping her, sexually assaulting her, and "baptizing" her, deputy Wilkey then reversed his promise and arrested Riley for the marijuana roach. In his arrest report, he claimed to have stopped Riley because her window tint was too dark and she admitted to having a joint in her car. His report mentioned nothing of the baptism.
Also, as TFTP reported in October, Wilkey is named in a separate lawsuit over a stop for window tint. In that incident, Wilkey and his fellow deputy handcuffed an innocent man, beat him, pulled down his pants, and then gave him an anal cavity search on the side of the road as passersby watched them look for a non-existent plant. The anal cavity search was so brutal, that the victim required surgery to repair his anus.
We actually have the dashcam footage of this crime.
Despite both of these incidents, Wilkey was not immediately fired and instead he received a paid vacation for several months before being charged.
Before her mysterious death, Riley's lawsuit was seeking $1,000,000 in compensatory damages and $10,000,000 in punitive damages.
If found guilty on all the charges, Wilkey could spend the rest of his life behind bars. If you watch the video below, based on just one of the charges, you can see that he definitely deserves it.