Reporter Jamie Satterfield gives an update on day 4 of the Riley Gaul trial. Gaul is on trial for the murder of Emma Walker
Jamie Satterfield, USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee
Former Maryville College football player William Riley Gaul wanted “to be upset” that his girlfriend was dead, but he had more pressing concerns – convincing his buddies to lie and help him ditch the gun used to kill her, testimony Thursday showed.
“I’m trusting you guys with my life because this is 70 years in jail if I’m convicted of something I didn’t do,” Gaul said on a secret recording his friends made – at the behest of law enforcement – the day after news broke that 16-year-old Emma Walker had been found dead in her bed.
“I want to be upset but I can’t,” Gaul said, explaining he was too “worried” about being arrested to ponder the November 2016 death of Walker, an honor student and cheerleader at Central High School.
Undercover video of William Riley Gaul talking to friends about disposing of his grandfather’s gun
Saul Young, USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee
Gaul, 19, is standing trial this week in Knox County Criminal Court on charges including first-degree murder and especially aggravated stalking.
Lies, lies and more lies
Photo of Emma Jane Walker shown during the trial of William Riley Gaul Tuesday, May 1, 2018. Gaul, a former Maryville College football player, is charged in the 2016 shooting death of his 16-year-old ex-girlfriend Walker. (Photo: Michael Patrick/News Sentinel)
He now admits via defense attorney Wesley Stone he stole his grandfather’s gun and used it to fire two shots through the bedroom wall of Walker’s North Knox County home. Stone contends Gaul didn’t know a bullet could travel through the wall and only meant to scare Walker so he could show up as her hero.
But prosecutors Kevin Allen and Molly Martin on Thursday sent three of Gaul’s friends to the witness stand to attack that defense as yet another lie in a series Gaul told in the days before and after Walker’s death.
The first lie came two days before her death when Gaul claimed to have been kidnapped in a ruse to get Walker – who was trying to break off a two-year relationship with Gaul fraught with fights and parental upset – to talk to him.
Friends Isaac Ewers, Noah Walton and Alex McCarty weren’t buying the kidnapping tale.
“It was a bald-faced lie – over and over again,” Ewers testified Thursday.
A day after the kidnapping claim, Gaul confessed to McCarty that he had stolen his grandfather’s gun.
“He told me he was so concerned about his safety he had stolen his grandfather’s gun,” McCarty said.
More: Defense: William Riley Gaul wanted to be his girlfriend’s hero, not her killer
McCarty told Ewers and Walton about Gaul’s confession, but they didn’t call authorities or alert anyone.
“I didn’t want to get my friend in trouble,” Ewers said.
‘Why did you tell them about the gun?’
The next night – a few hours before Walker was believed to have been shot – Gaul phoned Walton with a strange question.
“He asked me – for his roommate – if I knew how to remove fingerprints from a gun,” Walton said.
Noah Walton on the stand with Assistant District Attorney Kevin Allen, left, during the trial of William Riley Gaul Thursday, May 3, 2018. Gaul, a former Maryville College football player, is charged in the 2016 shooting death of his 16-year-old ex-girlfriend Emma Jane Walker. (Photo: Michael Patrick/News Sentinel)
Gaul didn’t know then that McCarty had told Walton that he had stolen his grandfather’s gun.
“I obviously had no idea (how to remove fingerprints), and I told him never ask me something like that.”
When Walton learned the following day about Walker’s death, “a lot of things kind of clicked on what had happened.”
“The first thing I asked him was if he still had the gun,” McCarty testified of his reaction to Walker’s death. “He told me he gave it back to his grandpa.”
When McCarty learned that, too, was a lie, he, Walton and Ewers told Knox County Sheriff’s Office detectives what they knew about Gaul and the gun. Gaul, testimony showed, was livid.
“Why did you tell him about the gun?” Gaul said in a text. “They think I shot her because of it. Just, God, please promise me if any cop asks you any more questions, just tell them you’re not willing to answer.”
Gaul didn’t know KCSO had provided McCarty and Walton a recording device when he met with the pair to try to convince them to help him ditch the gun and lie to authorities.
‘They will never find it’
Jurors watched Thursday as a calm-looking Gaul sat on a couch at Walton’s home and plotted how to avoid arrest.
“I had the gun because I was scared,” Gaul insisted as he tried to convince his friends he didn’t shoot Walker “One thousand and one percent, I never would. I would hurt myself before I hurt Emma.”
Gaul told his friends to recant their statements about the stolen gun.
“You just tell them you were on acid, high and drunk, and you didn’t understand me,” Gaul said. “Yeah, just do that, because they don’t know anything or I would be in jail right now … You’re in an altered state of mind, so you didn’t know what you were saying.”
Gaul asked his friends to accompany him to “the Bluffs” overlooking the Tennessee River near the University of Tennessee campus.
“If I throw it with enough force, if it’s in the Tennessee River, they will never find it,” Gaul said.
Gaul didn’t know law enforcement was surveilling him as he, McCarty and Walton headed to “the Bluffs.” As soon as they parked, and Gaul showed his friends the gun, Gaul was arrested. The trial continues Friday.
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