Missing University of Missouri student Riley Strain was spotted by couple as he staggered along Nashville street, family friend says

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Written By Maya Cantina

A husband and wife are the latest to reveal they spoke to missing University of Missouri student Riley Strain on the night he disappeared in Nashville, in an update a family friend calls ‘incredible.’

Strain, 22, was last seen on March 8 at Luke’s 32 Bridge Food + Drink on Broadway, which is owned by country superstar Luke Bryan, according to the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department.

Chris Dingman, a friend who has become the family’s spokesperson, has connected with a couple visiting the city who said they saw him as he staggered down the streets the night he vanished.

‘The mother reached out, she saw Riley and made a comment, like, ‘You’re not driving tonight?’ and he goes, ‘No ma’am,” Dingman said. 

A husband and wife are the latest to reveal they spoke to missing University of Missouri student Riley Strain on the night he disappeared in Nashville, in news a family friend calls ‘incredible’ 

Chris Dingman, a friend who has become the family's ersatz spokesperson, has connected with a couple visiting the city who said they saw him as he staggered down the streets the night he vanished

Chris Dingman, a friend who has become the family’s ersatz spokesperson, has connected with a couple visiting the city who said they saw him as he staggered down the streets the night he vanished 

Nashville police released this haunting image of Strain walking along the sidewalk on the night he vanished, as he asked a cop how he was before telling him that he was 'doing good'

Nashville police released this haunting image of Strain walking along the sidewalk on the night he vanished, as he asked a cop how he was before telling him that he was ‘doing good’

Despite reports and criticism that the Metro Nashville Police Department have been slow to react to people providing tips, Dingman says the couple have been speaking to the authorities. 

‘They were able to contact the police,’ Dingman told NewsNation. ‘They reached out several days prior that they have been in contact with the police and turned over their information.’ 

‘That is literally incredible news that we’ve gotten,’ Dingman continued, with the thought being that more tourists may have seen the 22-year-old.

Dingman noted that they didn’t have an exact timeline on when they encountered Riley. 

Meanwhile, another homeless advocate is claiming a connection to Strain, believing to have seen a shirt belonging to Riley covered in vomit on one of the homeless men he works with.

Chris Salisbury said that multiple people he works with saw the shirt on one of the homeless men on March 10, two days after Strain vanished, ‘with puke on it.’

‘He just wiped it off and then put it on,’ Salisbury said, saying the homeless man had found it ‘on a railing’ while looking for copper on the riverfront. 

Riley was seen on surveillance video stumbling away from a bar in Nashville and a homeless person reported Strain was at an encampment the night he went missing. But, his whereabouts after remains a mystery. 

Chris Salisbury said that multiple people he works with saw the shirt on one of the homeless men on March 10, two days after Strain vanished, 'with puke on it.'

Chris Salisbury said that multiple people he works with saw the shirt on one of the homeless men on March 10, two days after Strain vanished, ‘with puke on it.’

Strain is pictured here on March 8 - wearing a white T-shirt that a witness later claimed to have seen being worn by a homeless man several days after his disappearance

Strain is pictured here on March 8 – wearing a white T-shirt that a witness later claimed to have seen being worn by a homeless man several days after his disappearance 

The new details come as the investigation continues to show no progress and Strain remains missing, with his family becoming critical of the police. 

A pair of TikTok sleuths put Nashville’s police department to shame by discovering a key piece of evidence on the riverbank near where Strain went missing. 

Anna Clendening and Brandy Baenen livestreamed their search on TikTok. The stream documented the chilling moment that a credit card belonging to Strain was discovered amongst the rubble of a trash-littered riverbank near Nashville’s downtown. 

Clendening, a musician, and Baenen, an artist, are both true crime enthusiasts who are passionate about bringing Strain home. 

The pair had been searching along the Cumberland River’s steep embankment and the James Robertson Parkway bridge, where Strain was last spotted on camera and close to where his cell phone last pinged his location. 

It is also an area close to a homeless encampment.

‘My stomach dropped,’ Clendening said, describing the moment she turned over the card to reveal Strain’s name. ‘My innate reaction was to be like, ‘Let’s keep looking.’ 

‘Riley’s face- I’m seeing every time I close my eyes,’ Baenen said. ‘I haven’t been able to sleep the last few days because I know his mom is not sleeping.’

A pair of TikTok sleuths put Nashville's police department to shame by discovering a key piece of evidence on the riverbank near where Strain went missing

A pair of TikTok sleuths put Nashville’s police department to shame by discovering a key piece of evidence on the riverbank near where Strain went missing

The pair found the card as they searched the Cumberland River's steep embankment and the James Robertson Parkway bridge

The pair found the card as they searched the Cumberland River’s steep embankment and the James Robertson Parkway bridge 

Anna Clendening, a musician, and Brandy Baenen, an artist, are both true crime enthusiasts who are passionate about bringing Strain home. The livestreamed the moment they found Strain's card along the riverbank

Anna Clendening, a musician, and Brandy Baenen, an artist, are both true crime enthusiasts who are passionate about bringing Strain home. The livestreamed the moment they found Strain’s card along the riverbank

‘We want answers for them (Strain’s parents) and we’re going to look for them. If nobody else will, we will,’ Clendening told WZTV Nashville. 

Strain’s father confirmed that police haven’t said anything about the bank card being discovered. 

‘I think it just shines light on the B-minus job that the police force may be doing.’

Since being slammed by family and members of the public, the Metro Nashville PD have released video of them searching the river themselves using helicopters. 

Officers have also defended their search efforts. ‘When we start a missing person investigation, we’re looking for a person. We’re looking for a body. We’re not looking for small pieces of evidence,’ Sgt. Robert Nielsen said during a press conference.

‘Can we miss somethings? Sure. But our primary goal is to find Mr. Strain and bring him home safely.

Strain’s relatives have said they staunchly believe the missing college student is still alive – and they want the FBI to step in and take over the investigation from the Nashville cops. 

‘With everything that’s gone in the past few days – we’ve been reached out to and we’ve spoken today with the United Cajun Navy,’ Riley’s stepdad Chris Whiteid said.

Strain, 22, was last seen on March 8 at Luke's 32 Bridge Food + Drink on Broadway, which is owned by country superstar Luke Bryan , according to the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department

Strain, 22, was last seen on March 8 at Luke’s 32 Bridge Food + Drink on Broadway, which is owned by country superstar Luke Bryan , according to the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department 

A bank card belonging to Strain was found on the embankment near Gay Street, which is a three-minute walk from the Downtown Smoke & Vape Shop on Church Street where he was last seen on video

A bank card belonging to Strain was found on the embankment near Gay Street, which is a three-minute walk from the Downtown Smoke & Vape Shop on Church Street where he was last seen on video

‘We feel that we need the extra resources to come in and help us as we try and get more organized for our family and see if we can’t bring some more clues to light.’

Police previous shared footage on X showing Strain walking along the sidewalk past an officer, who appeared to be inspecting a car with a smashed window.  

Strain says, ‘How are you?’ to the officer, to which the cop responds, ‘How you doing sir?’

‘Good you?’ Strain says. ‘Good,’ the officer said back. Metro Nashville PD said that it is evidence the student was away from Gay St, the last place he was seen alive.

It comes as the last person to potentially see Strain said he caused a ‘commotion’ at a Nashville homeless encampment where the student’s bank card was later found.

‘We heard a commotion. We looked back up. He almost fell over. The last bush right there caught him,’ an unidentified man who lives in the camp told WZTV.

He was very, very, very intoxicated. I never seen anybody stumble that hard before,’ the man said. ‘I yelled get up. They said, ‘He’s just drunk. He’s OK.”

His parents previously discussed how Nashville cops butchered the investigation into their son’s disappearance, as more clues to Riley’s whereabouts seem to have come from the public than officers. 

Michelle Strain Whiteid, left, and her husband, Chris Whiteid, speak to the media during a press conference to update the public about the disappearance of Riley Strain

Michelle Strain Whiteid, left, and her husband, Chris Whiteid, speak to the media during a press conference to update the public about the disappearance of Riley Strain

Strain’s relatives said they staunchly believe the missing college student is still alive – and they want the FBI to step in and take over the investigation from the Nashville cops

Strain’s mother Michelle and Whiteid along with his father Ryan Gilbert earlier sat down with Ashleigh Banfield on NewsNation to discuss the ongoing search.

‘We had not seen anything or heard from them throughout the week,’ Strain’s stepdad said – adding that they were getting frustrated with the police department’s lack of communication.  

Banfield responded that she was ‘steaming mad’ that she had interviewed a key witness who had still not been interviewed by the police at the time of the NewsNation interview. 

The witness was a volunteer who works with homeless people near Nashville’s downtown, where Strain went missing. She made an important connection several days after Strain’s disappearance. 

Sabrina Martin, who volunteers with nonprofit group Souls United said she saw someone wearing a distinctive shirt just like Riley was last seen in. 

She had been feeding the homeless with a group of volunteers and as they were passing plates and water an individual passed by on a bicycle wearing a dirty hoodie with a very clean white shirt with a black collar underneath. 

He dropped a bottle of water and when he leaned over to grab it, Martin noted how clean the shirt underneath was an even pointed it out to a fellow-volunteer. 

Strain's parents have slammed Nashville cops for doing a 'B-minus job' in the investigation into their son's mysterious disappearance. Strain's mother Michelle and stepdad Chris Whiteid (middle) along with his father Ryan Gilbert (right) speak in an interview Monday

Strain’s parents have slammed Nashville cops for doing a ‘B-minus job’ in the investigation into their son’s mysterious disappearance. Strain’s mother Michelle and stepdad Chris Whiteid (middle) along with his father Ryan Gilbert (right) speak in an interview Monday

Surveillance footage released by the Nashville police show him wobbling and appearing confused as he crossed a closed road near the water

Surveillance footage released by the Nashville police show him wobbling and appearing confused as he crossed a closed road near the water

Martin also said it was unusual from a homeless person to be riding a bike.

She encountered the homeless man only a 10-minute-walk from the bar area where Strain went missing.

The volunteer described the homeless man as 6-foot 1-inch white man with a buzzcut and ungroomed facial hair. ‘His face, his neck ands his hands were very dirty,’ Martin described. 

Information has slowly dripped in about the last hours before Strain vanished and family friend Dingman is refuting initial assumptions that his phone lost power.

‘That is something that we have been able to find and verify. Riley did have battery power at the time his phone went dark,’ he told NewsNation. 

Dingman initially spoke Monday where he revealed the last communication anyone could find from Riley – which was a confusing text to a girl he was speaking with.

‘She texted him to see how he was doing, if he was having fun. He sent kind of a scripted text back to her saying ‘Good lops,” Dingman said. 

Neither Dingman nor the girl appeared to understand what Strain meant by this, describing it as ‘unclear slang.’ 

Dingman said he thought to reflect Riley’s alleged mental state.

However, some have suggested ‘lops’ to be an acronym for ‘low on power, sorry,’ which Dingman says it’s not true.

‘What we have been told is the phone did not die due to battery capacity,’ he added.

Dingman said that it ‘wasn’t even at five percent, which some kids run around on and frustrates us as parents.’

He also went into further detail as to why Strain was ejected from the bar, saying that it was not due to a confrontation but an employee who ‘felt like, you know, maybe he had had enough.’ 

Dingman said that he and Strain’s family are growing frustrated with the inability to find him having seen both bodycam footage released by the police on Monday and additional recordings the public hadn’t seen.

‘Every piece of the puzzle we’ve been receiving, it leads us down 100 more questions,’ he said. ‘We’re no closer to finding Riley.’

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