Meigs County Sheriff Deputy Robert RJ Leonard found: Patrol car recovered from Tennessee River with the body of a woman

Meigs County District Attorney Russell Johnson giving a press conference
Meigs County District Attorney Russell Johnson gave a press conference about Deputy Leonard’s disappearance. Pic credit: @newschannelnine/YouTube

The authorities in Tennessee have recovered the remains of Meigs County Sheriff Deputy Robert RJ Leonard, who had been missing since Wednesday night after making an arrest.

The body of an unidentified woman has also been recovered, and she is believed to be the individual Leonard had arrested that evening. Her body was pulled from the back seat of Leonard’s patrol car, which was found upside down in the Tennessee River.

Yesterday afternoon, the car was pulled from the river on the border of Meigs and Hamilton counties. The vehicle was found upside down and filled with mud, and the driver’s side window was open. The arrestee was still in the back seat, but there was no sign of Deputy Leonard.

However, late last night, Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that the body of Leonard had been recovered and was being sent to the Knoxville Regional Medical Examiner’s Office.

A statement from Hamilton Sheriff Austin Garrett read, “We would also like to ask our community to keep the family of Deputy Leonard and his colleagues in the Meigs County Sheriff’s Office in your thoughts and prayers during this very difficult time.”

The police are currently treating this incident as a tragic accident. Deputy Leonard had responded to a call at 10 p.m. Wednesday night of a man and a woman fighting. He reportedly placed the woman in custody.

Sheriff Deputy Robert RJ Leonard texted wife as he disappeared

Leonard had been with the Sheriff’s Office only a short time, having joined in December.

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According to the cops, he texted his wife, “Arrest,” and she responded with “That’s good” or “That’s great.” Leonard’s phone never received the text.

Around the same time, dispatch received a radio call from the deputy, which suggested he may have been in trouble. He was allegedly heard to say, “Water,” but the transmission was garbled.

Dispatch subsequently lost contact with Leonard, and he later failed to respond to a status check.

Up until Leonard’s body was found late last night, the searchers had held out hope that he would still be found alive.

Meigs County police suspect Deputy Robert Leonard and arrestee died in tragic accident

Meigs County District Attorney Russell Johnson said at a press conference on Thursday afternoon, “We’re operating under the theory that it was an accident — he missed his turn, he wasn’t familiar, and he was doing other things that may have caused him to go into the water.”

According to the authorities, the stretch of road near where the patrol car was found can be treacherous, particularly in bad weather or when the driver is unfamiliar with the road.

Leonard’s colleagues have praised the deputy, stating that despite only being on the job a couple of months, he was doing a “really good job” and had become a valued member of the Meigs County Sheriff’s Office family.

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