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Body Of Deputy And Arrestee Found In A Gruesome River

The Hamilton County Sheriff’s office confirmed that Meigs County Deputy Robert “R.J.” Leonard’s body had been found and was being transported to the Knoxville Regional Medical Examiner’s Office. Video footage depicted a procession of law enforcement motorcycles and vehicles with their lights on, traveling down a dimly lit road.

The search for Leonard began on Wednesday night when he lost contact with Meigs County dispatch after making an arrest and heading towards the county jail, according to reports from WDEF in Chattanooga, Tennessee. District Attorney Russell Johnson stated in a previous press conference that a handcuffed woman’s body was recovered in the vehicle, but her identity remains unconfirmed.

Authorities suspect Leonard may have accidentally driven his vehicle into the river in the darkness. Leonard, who had recently relocated from New York to the rural Tennessee area, had joined the sheriff’s office after graduating from Cleveland State Police Academy.

Body Of Deputy And Arrestee Found In A Gruesome River

His final communication was a text message to his wife simply saying “water.” Chief Deputy Brian Malone of the Meigs County Sheriff’s Department expressed that despite Leonard’s brief tenure of only a few months, he had quickly become an integral part of their close-knit community.

Investigating agencies are working to determine the circumstances leading to the vehicle entering the water. During a press briefing, Johnson suggested that it appeared to be an accident, possibly due to Leonard being distracted while driving in poorly illuminated conditions.

“We’re leaning towards the belief that it was an accident — he may have missed his turn, being unfamiliar with the area, while also being occupied with other tasks that led to the vehicle entering the water,” Johnson explained during the briefing.

Leonard, aged 35, resided nearby with his wife and three children. Meigs County Sheriff Jackie Melton expressed sorrow, stating, “Deputy Leonard had only been with us for about two months. He was performing admirably. Exceptionally well. It’s particularly difficult when the department feels like a family.”

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