A woman who had been baptized by two sheriff’s deputies during a traffic stop in 2019 has been found dead. Her body was found just one week after a federal judge ruled that a lawsuit against the deputies could go forward.
According to Religion News Service, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation told a local news station that authorities had found the body of Shandele Marie Riley. She was 42.
Authorities are awaiting an autopsy to determine the cause of death.
Riley made headlines after she sued two sheriff’s deputies who pulled her over in February 2019. Hamilton County sheriff’s deputy Daniel Wilkey allegedly found marijuana in Riley’s car during the traffic stop. According to court documents, Riley said all she had was a “marijuana roach in her cigarette pack.”
Wilkey, however, offered Riley a choice: he could arrest her or she could get baptized. He said he would give her a citation only if she got baptized, but he would not take her to jail.
Riley agreed to the baptism and went to her ex-mother-in-law’s house nearby to get a towel.
She told her ex-mother-in-law that she was “fixing to get baptized.”
She and her ex-mother-in-law then met Wilkey and a second sheriff’s deputy, Jacob Goforth, at a nearby lake.
Wilkey stripped down to his underwear and T-shirt and baptized Riley, fully clothed. Goforth filmed the baptism.
Riley said Goforth “smirked” at her, and she felt the baptism was wrong and just “about power and control.”
She pled guilty to possession of a controlled substance, but the charges were dismissed. She then sued the two deputies, claiming they had violated her freedom of religion and had “unreasonably” searched her car. She also said they caused her emotional distress.
Wilkey faces at least five federal lawsuits and has been indicted on 44 counts of alleged criminal conduct, according to news reports.
Wilkey and Goforth are no longer working as sheriff’s deputies.
In the lawsuit, the judge ruled that the deputies did not “conspire” to baptize her, but he also ruled that “no government interest is furthered by the baptism of a detainee by an on-duty law enforcement officer.”
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Douglas Sacha
Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.