HAMILTON COUNTY, Tenn. (WTVC) — Baptism is a pretty common sight in the South, but what if it's a Tennessee sheriff's deputy baptizing a suspect?
For the first time, WTVC obtained the cell phone video set to be used in federal court in the case against Daniel Wilkey. The former Hamilton County deputy is accused of forcibly baptizing a suspect, false imprisonment and rape.
In the video entered into the federal court docket of a civil lawsuit, recorded by his former partner Jacob Goforth, viewers can see Wilkey in his boxers with the suspect, Shandle Marie Riley, in Soddy Lake.
In court filings, Wilkey admitted to baptizing Riley, who he arrested in February 2019. However, he says it was she who, unprompted, specifically asked Wilkey to do it so she could "turn away from her life of drug abuse and crime."
The lawsuit said Wilkey told Riley he would only give her a citation instead of taking her to jail for marijuana remnants in her car if she let him baptize her. In October 2020, the woman filed an $11 million lawsuit against Wilkey, another deputy and the county. The lawsuit says Riley felt "horribly violated."
All charges were dropped against Riley in November and the public may never know her whole story. Riley died of an overdose in April. A medical examiner's report says a COVID-19 infection contributed to her death.
The civil suits against Wilkey are numerous, with seven plaintiffs and pages and pages of court filings. In one order, federal Judge Travis McDonough wrote, "Any reasonable observer would conclude that the effect of the baptism was an unequivocal endorsement of Christianity."
A 250-page deposition of Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond reveals an internal affairs investigation wasn't opened into this bizarre encounter until months later, even though Wilkey's superiors knew what happened.
The sheriff admits "this was a serious enough case that it should've been" investigated sooner.
Wilkey is no longer a Hamilton County's sheriff's deputy; he resigned before he could be fired. He still also faces dozens of criminal charges in Hamilton County court.