Levi Elliot: A young girl is shot and fatally injured. Before she dies, she names her killer…it’s her 15-year-old brother.
Crystal Brooke Howell: A teenager suddenly comes into money. Then questions start being asked about her father’s whereabouts.
Natasha Ellis: Janice’s parents did not approve of her friendship with Natasha. The girls have a plan for that. It involves a double homicide.
Jesus Campos: He was a thug and a bully. He did not deserve a girl like Karen but for some reason, she loved him. That would come at a heavy price.
Jordan Wallick: Jordan wanted to make a name for himself with his gangbanger buddies. If that meant killing somebody, then so be it. He was ready.
Toby Sincino: Toby had always told his friends that he’d never make it to adulthood. Today he’s checking out of this life. But he’s not going alone.
Miguel Gaitan & Joel Ramos: A staggeringly savage home invasion leaves an entire family dead. The killers are barely into their teens.
Killer Kids Volume 13
At Central High School in Knoxville, Tennessee, William Gaul and Emma Walker were a golden couple. William, who went by his middle name, Riley, was the star wide receiver on the football team. Emma was the beautiful, blonde cheerleader. Both did well academically. It seemed almost inevitable that they would be drawn to each other. During Emma’s freshman year, in 2014, they started dating.
At first, Riley and Emma seemed like the perfect match. He was attentive and fun to be with, polite to her parents, pleasant, if somewhat aloof, to her friends. Emma certainly saw him as a catch. She posted countless pictures of them on her Facebook page. One of those bore the caption, “Look how lucky I am.” All too soon, though, Riley’s possessive side began to emerge. Riley didn’t want Emma hanging around with anyone but him. He started dictating what she could wear and where she could go. Emma, a sassy and independent young woman, was never going to stand for that.
Over the next two years, the relationship between Emma and Riley was a rollercoaster ride. There were breakups and makeups, angry outbursts, and frequent arguments, often conducted via text or on Snapchat. Riley took to lurking outside the supermarket where Emma had a part-time job, often standing there for hours. Emma’s friends started to worry about her and so did her mom, Jill. Emma brushed off their concerns, saying that it would be okay. Meanwhile, the tone of Riley’s Snapchat posts was becoming more and more aggressive.
And it was one of those posts that would prove the tipping point. “You’re dead to me,” it read. “I’ll see your name in the obituary section.” That was when Emma’s parents stepped in. They banned Riley from their house and strongly suggested to their daughter that it might be time to end things. They also took away her cell phone to prevent her from contacting Riley. However, Emma and Riley quickly circumvented that restriction and stayed in touch.
In 2016, 17-year-old Riley Gaul graduated from Central High School. In the fall of that year, he started attending nearby Maryville College. Emma was now a junior at Central High and the pair were still dating. However, their tumultuous relationship had not improved. The constant cycle of fights and breakups, arguments, and toxic texts, was taking a toll on Emma. Mark and Jill Walker decided that it was time to take a firmer hand on the matter. They grounded their daughter. Henceforth, she’d only be allowed to leave the house for school and cheerleading practice. That gave her no opportunity to see Riley Gaul.
And it worked. The break from Gaul gave Emma time to think, time to gain perspective. The conclusion that she reached was music to the ears of her friends and family. She decided to end the relationship. “We’re done for good,” she texted her friend Keegan Lyle.
Riley, as might be expected, did not take the news well. He became depressed, suffered mood swings. He spent hours moping around in his dorm room, sometimes even crying in front of his friends. He also swallowed a bunch of Vicodin pills, washing them down with vodka in an apparent suicide attempt. After this, he appeared to regain a modicum of composure and seemed determined to win Emma back.
On Friday, November 18, 2016, Emma Walker attended a party and sleepover at a friend’s house. That evening, she started receiving strange text messages urging her to, “Come outside alone if you don’t want to see a loved one get hurt.” Thinking that it was Riley playing a trick on her, she texted back, threatening to call the police. Then the calls became more sinister, “I’ve got someone you love. If you don’t comply, I will hurt them” and “If you’d like to hear his crying and screams give me a call.”
Eventually, Emma asked a friend, Zach Greene to go outside with her to check it out. They fully expected it to be a hoax. It wasn’t. There was a body lying face down in a ditch near the house. It was Riley Gaul. “What are you doing here?” Emma demanded. At this, Riley acted confused, saying he didn’t know how he’d ended up in the ditch. According to him, he’d been kidnapped and dropped there by his abductors. Neither Emma nor Zach believed him. They saw it for what it was, a childish ploy to gain Emma’s sympathy.
The next incident was more terrifying. Emma had just arrived home the next morning when a stranger appeared on her doorstep. Dressed all in black and wearing a mask, he was rattling the door handle, checking the windows, trying to enter the house. In desperation, Emma texted Riley, who said that he was on his way. By the time he arrived, the would-be intruder was gone. Emma’s parents would later theorize that the “intruder” was none other than Riley himself. They believed that he had set the whole thing up so that he could play the hero. If it was meant as a ploy to worm his way back into Emma’s affections, it failed.
By Sunday night, November 20, things had regained a modicum of normalcy in the Walker household. Emma spent the evening watching TV with her family and texting with friends. She went to bed a little after midnight. At 6:00 a.m. the next morning, Jill Walker went to her daughter’s room to wake her for school. This was her normal routine and Emma typically responded on the first call. Today, however, Emma did not respond. Jill then stepped into the room and shook her daughter by the leg. Still nothing. That was when she spotted blood on the pillow. Jill checked for a pulse and found none. She immediately ran for her phone and dialed 911.
Emma Walker was dead, killed by a bullet that had been fired through her bedroom window, a bullet that had hit her in the back of the head. A second slug had missed its target and would be retrieved from the pillow she was lying on. Knox County deputies later found two matching shell casings in the flowerbed outside the window.
Right from the start, there was one clear suspect. Everyone investigators interviewed offered the same name, Riley Gaul, Riley who was obsessed with Emma and distraught over their breakup, Riley who had threatened her in the past. And it wasn’t only Emma’s friends and family who suspected Riley. The day after Emma’s death, his friend Alex McCarty told police that Riley had shown him a gun that he’d stolen from his grandfather. Another friend, Noah Walton, had also seen the gun. Riley had asked him for the best way to get fingerprints off it. It was time for detectives to have a word with Riley Gaul.
But Riley wasn’t going to make it easy for them. He denied having anything to do with Emma’s death, claiming that he’d spent the whole of Friday evening at his friend Noah Walton’s house. Bizarrely, he refused to use Emma’s name during the interview, referring to her only as “the girl” or “the girl who passed away.” This was a world away from the way he’d reacted on social media. His Facebook page had a post that read, “Rest easy now, sweetheart. I love you forever and always.”
Gaul was then asked about his grandfather’s gun and denied knowing where it was or ever having it in his possession. He also denied showing it to his friends. That was clearly a lie, but Gaul was nonetheless allowed to leave. He immediately started firing off angry texts to his friends, demanding to know why they had told the police about the gun.
Alex McCarty and Noah Walton still had an important part to play in the resolution of this crime. Knowing that Gaul had lied to them and to the police, knowing that he had likely gunned down Emma Walker, they agreed to work with investigators in building a case against their friend.
On Tuesday night, one day after Emma’s murder, McCarty and Walton were wired up and sent to meet with Riley Gaul. During their conversation, Gaul handed them a bag, asking them to get rid of its contents. Officers then moved in and made the arrest. Inside the bag, they found a treasure trove of evidence, including gloves and black clothing. They also found a 9mm pistol, which turned out to be the murder weapon
William Riley Gaul went on trial in May 2018. There, his defense admitted that it was Riley who had fired into Emma’s room but claimed that he was not trying to hit her. He was only trying to frighten her, to create another crisis so that he could ride in and play the hero. The jury wasn’t buying that and found Gaul guilty as charged. He was sentenced to life in prison, with parole eligibility in 51 years. Riley Gaul will be approaching 70 years of age by the time he has his first review board.
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