Emma Walker was a spirited 14-year-old freshman on the cheerleading squad who loved leading and loved football games. Walker’s moves on the sidelines caught the eye of Riley Gaul, a top student who loved to play video games. Gaul was a little to himself, not the “classic jock” type.
Walker’s parents said their first impressions of Gaul were positive. They let him have some supervised visitation and would meet up after football games to eat. At first, the relationship seemed normal. But after a while, Walker’s friends grew concerned over Gaul’s jealousy of her- he didn’t want her to spend time with anyone but him.
Over the next two years, Walker and Gaul became that other classic high school couple, always breaking up and getting back together. Friends described “really dramatic” arguments between the two, often over text message or Snapchat posts.
Walker’s friends said Gaul became aggressive and sent her hateful messages. One message in particular alarmed Walker’s mother. Jill Walker, Emma’s mother, said she advised her daughter to break-up with Gaul several times as a result.
Emma Walker and Gaul, now a college freshman, were still dating in fall 2016 when her parents decided to ground her. Her activities were closely monitored and very limited, and this seemed to work wonders. Her parents claim that she had begun to act like her old self again, and she eventually called it quits with Gaul.
Walker was allowed to attend a gathering at a friend’s house and told her friend Zach Greene she had been receiving strange text messages from a number she didn’t recognize. The text messages threatened to hurt someone she loved if she didn’t comply.
Those texts led to her and Greene finding Gaul lying face down in a ditch near the house, and Gaul was holding his head like he got hit upside the head. He was behaving as if he got kidnapped, and the pair of friends were extremely disturbed.
Gaul told his friend Noah Walton about the alleged kidnapping, but Noah didn’t believe a word of it. He was especially suspicious since Gaul told him not to call 911 or report the incident to authorities.
The next morning, Walker found a stranger near her doorstep that she though looked threatening. Jill Walker saw that her daughter was shaken up by this, but soon after this incident life seemed to go back to normal.
Jill Walker went into her daughter’s room after 6:00 a.m. on November 21, 2016 and couldn’t wake her up. She checked for a pulse and couldn’t find anything, so she called 911.
Police were sent to the Walker house, where they found a bullet hole in the wall. The victim was not a suicide, according to forensic technician Nikki Bules. Two shell casings were found outside the home indicating that two shots had been fired.
Her ex-boyfriend, Riley Gaul, was the prime suspect.
Gaul’s defense attorney argued that Gaul had never meant to kill Walker, but had fired the gun to try to scare her and get her attention. Gaul also denied being the mysterious “man dressed in black” that had spooked her prior to her death.
At his sentencing hearing, Gaul apologized to the Walkers for killing their daughter, but stuck by his defense that it was an accidental shooting.