After 16-year-old Emma Walker was shot and killed while sleeping at home in her bed in North Knox County, Tennessee, authorities soon focused on her ex-boyfriend, William Riley Gaul, as a person of interest. However, they needed to find evidence, such as the murder weapon, tying him to the November 2016 crime.
Two of Gaul’s friends who were suspicious of him shared their concerns with investigators and ultimately helped police to arrest the college football player. Alex McCarty and Noah Walton said that Gaul approached them after the crime and revealed certain information, which is when they decided to step in and help investigators, ABC News reported.
Walker, who was a junior at Central High School and a cheerleader, had been in an on-and-off relationship with Gaul for about two years but had ended things shortly before her death, the outlet reported. Friends of the couple told investigators that Gaul wasn’t able to let the relationship go and continued to contact her and try to get her attention in the days prior to her death.
McCarty & Walton Said They Quickly Realized Gaul Was Lying to Them
According to ABC News, McCarty said, “[Gaul] ended up telling me that he was so fearful for his life that he had stolen his grandfather’s gun, and he showed it to me. I held it in my hand that night.” McCarty said Gaul told him he was scared for his life and that people were out to get him and Walker.
However, after authorities confronted Gaul about having his grandfather’s gun, Gaul messaged McCarty and asked his friend why he’d told them about the gun. McCarty said he went to see Gaul and that’s when he learned his friend was lying:
I told him he had no reason to withhold the weapon if he had nothing to hide and that, if anything, it could prove that he was innocent. I asked him, just outright, like, ‘What happened to the gun that you showed me?’ And he said, ‘I returned it to my grandpa. You don’t have to worry about it.’ And his mom walks out and begins questioning Riley in front of me about the whereabouts of the gun.
Another of Gaul’s friends, Noah Walton, said the football player was “on edge” and told him he would have to get rid of the gun in order to “not to get pinned for something that I didn’t do,” they quoted, as per ABC News.
Detectives Said the 2 Approached Authorities & Said They Could Help Apprehend Gaul
The lead detective on the case, Knox County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Allen Merritt, told ABC News for its 20/20 show that Walton and McCarty approached them and said they could help recover what was likely the murder weapon. “Obviously there’s concerns for their safety,” Merritt said. “We went over all that with them and they were still adamant, very adamant that they wanted to do this. They understood the dangers and the concerns, but they wanted to do it.”
The day after Walker’s death, Walton and McCarty were fitted with microphones, a transmitter and a video camera hidden in a key fob and participated in an operation planned by the detectives. Walton said, “My head was definitely spinning. There was so much going on.”
McCarty added, “I wasn’t fearful of my safety. I was just fearful that maybe justice couldn’t have been done if we made the wrong move.” The two invited Gaul over to play video games and recorded him coaching them on how to retract their statements about his gun. Walton explained, as per ABC News:
He basically wanted to nullify all our previous statements by saying we were under the influence and we didn’t know what we were talking about. I was like, ‘Okay, sure, bro, my bad. I didn’t know I was going to get you in trouble.’
Gaul told his friends that he wanted to go to the Tennessee River to throw the gun in and had it in a bag. Walton and McCarty tried to get Gaul to show them the contents of the bag and the gun but he declined. Walton said they were in contact with authorities in a group text: “I told [police] when we got the bag. I told them we didn’t see it yet, but he had a bag full of black clothes. And it’s supposedly in there, and it was about to happen soon. I don’t know when.”
Eventually, they managed to spot the weapon and provided the code word, which led to police sweeping in 90 seconds later and placing Gaul under arrest. According to Knox News, the bag was full of evidence including clothing, the weapon and gloves.