Riley Strain’s missing belt could be key to solving mysterious death: family friend

Riley Strain was wearing a belt the night he vanished and loved ones believe the missing article of clothing “raises more questions” about the college student’s mysterious death.

“Everybody we’ve talked to about that as soon as we found out he had a belt on that night was like, ‘Wow, that totally changes the dynamics of why those articles are missing,’” family friend Chris Dingman said Tuesday on NewsNations’ “Elizabeth Vargas Reports.”

Strain, 22, was pulled from the Cumberland River wearing only his shirt and watch on March 22, two weeks after he was thrown out of country star Luke Bryan’s honky tonk bar.

His cowboy boots, pants and wallet were all missing and have yet to be recovered nearly a month after investigators said he drowned.

The University of Missouri student had been wearing his favorite belt that night, which Dingman claimed should have prevented his pants from being ripped off from a fall into the water or by a strong current.

“Riley had a swimmer’s body … With the belt being on his hips, that would have been even more hard for the pants to come off in the water. It literally would have been snug to him, it would have been riding on his hips,” Dingman said.

“The belt is a big piece of the puzzle that we now have and once again raises more questions.”

The grieving friend also claimed that investigators are eyeing several persons of interest in the case — despite their preliminary autopsy report indicating that Strain died of “accidental” causes.

Strain’s family has struggled to accept that the college student may have drowned, with Dingman pointing out that “he was actually an excellent swimmer.”

Strain was found with no water in his lungs, as is typical with drowning victims.

The family ordered a second, private autopsy to dig deeper into the case after Metro Nashville investigators ruled Strain suffered no obvious signs of trauma.

Digman had previously suggested that homeless people living in a nearby encampment might hold the answers to the family’s burning questions.

One local homeless man allegedly saw a “very, very intoxicated” Strain almost fall over the edge of a trail into the river.

Strain wandered the streets of Nashville alone March 8 when he was kicked out of Luke’s 32 Bridge Food + Drink in Nashville on March 8.

He told his University of Missouri fraternity brothers that he was going back to his hotel room, but surveillance footage showed him making a wrong turn toward the river, with his cell phone last pinging a mile from the bar.

Strain was also spotted that night by a police officer near the river, according to body camera footage.

The student’s bank card was found days later on an embankment of the Cumberland River by two TikTokkers searching the area.

“It’s very brutal on the family right now. We’re at the stage where we want answers. We’re blessed to bring Riley home, but now, we want answers,” Dingman said.

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