Recovered bodies of deputy, arrested woman found in river

DECATUR, TN – The bodies of a newly-appointed deputy and a woman he had detained were found in the Tennessee River, approximately 24 hours after their disappearance. Meigs County Deputy R.J. Leonard was reported missing Wednesday night following a response to a call near a highway bridge.

Leonard’s first interaction with dispatchers occurred at approximately 9:48 pm local time, after which he took a woman into custody and began transport to the Meigs County jail, according to District Attorney Russell Johnson during a news briefing.

Shortly after, a puzzling dispatch was received from Leonard. Johnson stated it was difficult to comprehend but it’s believed Leonard was signaling distress.

“At the very same time, he was also texting his wife. It was my understanding that he sent a one-word text that said ‘arrest,'” added Johnson. Investigations later revealed that Leonard, who had only been with the sheriff’s office for two months, was undertaking his first arrest.

Almost 24 hours following the ordeal, the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the recovery of Leonard’s body in a post.

“His remains are currently being escorted to the Knoxville Regional Medical Examiner’s Office by motor units with the HCSO, Tennessee Highway Patrol and the Chattanooga Police Department,” the post read. The statement also called for thoughts and prayers for the deputy’s family and colleagues during this challenging time.

Earlier, authorities confirmed the recovery of Leonard’s patrol car and the body of the arrested woman from the river. The identity of the woman remains undisclosed.