A Tennessee Sheriff’s Deputy Was Found in a River Hours After His Vehicle Was Recovered

Credits: Fox 28 Savannah.

The body of Meigs County Sheriff’s Office deputy Robert “R.J.” Leonard was recovered from the Hiwassee River on Thursday, hours after searchers located his submerged patrol car.

Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office announced on Facebook just after 9 p.m. Thursday that Deputy Leonard’s body had been found in the water.

Deputy Leonard had arrested a woman around 9:51 p.m. Wednesday and subsequently sent a radio message that dispatchers were unable to decipher, according to District Attorney Russell Johnson, who spoke at a news conference on Thursday.

Tennessee Sheriff’s Deputy Found Near River (Credits: ABC News)

Investigators believe Deputy Leonard mentioned water in his radio message and drove off the Blythe Ferry boat ramp in Birchwood, Tennessee. This area has a history of similar accidents, particularly involving individuals unfamiliar with the roads.

Originally from New York, Deputy Leonard had recently relocated to Meigs County. District Attorney Johnson noted, “The ones that go off, they don’t know the roads. They come in here too fast, and the next thing you know they’re in the river.”

When Deputy Leonard failed to check in later on Wednesday, the search was initiated. Authorities first found his patrol car, where they discovered an unidentified deceased woman in the backseat. The woman was handcuffed, and Deputy Leonard was not in the vehicle.

“Deputy Leonard had been on the force about two months. He was doing a pretty good job. A really good job. It’s just hard when the department is like a family,” commented Meigs County Sheriff Jackie Melton.

Deputy Leonard, 35, had relocated to the area with his wife and five children, as reported by Knoxville CBS affiliate WVLT-TV.

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