SODDY DAISY, Tenn. — A woman who filed a lawsuit against a Tennessee deputy, accusing him of forcibly baptizing her during a traffic stop, has been found dead.
According to News9 in Chattanooga, Shandele Marie Riley, 42, was discovered dead at a home on Log Cabin Lane this week by Hamilton County deputies. Her cause of death has yet to be determined, and an autopsy has yet to be performed.
Her lawsuit was approved last week by a U.S. District Court judge.
"Wilkey and Riley next discussed religion. They spoke for another thirty minutes, and another deputy, Tyler McRae, left sometime during this conversation. Riley testified that Wilkey asked her whether she had been baptized. She responded with concern that she may not be ready. But, according to Riley’s testimony, Wilkey told her 'God [was] talking to him' and assured her that, if she got baptized, he would only write her a citation and she would be free to go about her business," the judge's ruling explains. "According to Riley, Wilkey also indicated that he would speak at court on her behalf if she agreed. Riley decided to go along with this plan because she '[did not] want to go to jail.' She also 'thought [Wilkey] was a God-fearing, church-like man who saw something . . . in [her], that God talked to him,' and testified that 'it felt good to believe that for a minute.'"
The ruling, first reported by The Chattanoogan and Courthouse News Service, comes after former deputy Daniel Wilkey was indicted in 2019 on 44 counts, including rape, assault, and official oppression after he pulled over Riley and discovered she was in possession of marijuana during a traffic stop and arrested her. Riley claims Wilkey improperly groped her crotch after putting her in handcuffs.
News9 said, Neal Pinkston, the Hamilton County District Attorney, has asked the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to look into Riley's death. Due to the pandemic and other issues, the lawsuit has been delayed numerous times, and Riley's death is yet another huge stumbling block.
"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," Riley's attorney Robin Flores told the news outlet. "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."