Missing Tennessee Rep's Body Recovered After Arrest: Officials

Officials said on Thursday night that the body of the missing vice-chancellor has been recovered.

The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office in Tennessee confirmed Facebook Following a search with the Meigs County Sheriff's Office, Deputy Robert “RJ” Leonard's body was found hours after his vehicle was located in a river.

“His body is currently being transported to the Knoxville Regional Medical Examiner's Office by the HCSO, Tennessee Highway Patrol and Chattanooga Police Department motor units,” HCSO said in the post.

Officers were looking for the deputy after he failed to respond to a status check after taking a woman into custody around 10pm local time on Wednesday, authorities said earlier.

Early Thursday morning, Leonard's patrol vehicle was found and pulled from the Tennessee River in an area bordering Meeks and Hamilton counties, authorities said.

According to Meigs County District Attorney Russell Johnson, authorities are working to confirm the identity of a woman recovered from the back seat.

On Wednesday night, just before 10 p.m. local time, Leonard responded to a report of a man and woman fighting on a bridge and took the woman into custody, according to Johnson. When he drove to the county jail, the sheriff's office lost contact with him and he failed to respond to a status check, Johnson said.

One of the vice chancellor's last communications was a text to his wife saying, “Arrest,” Johnson said.

“His wife texted back and said 'good' or 'that's great,'” he said at a press conference earlier Thursday. “We know his phone didn't get that text.”

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Around the same time, Leonard made a radio contact to dispatch, Johnson said.

“Couldn't tell what he was saying,” she said. “We think he meant 'water'.”

The search led officers to land near a bridge over the Tennessee River, Johnson said.

Leonard's vehicle was found upside down with the wheels up, filled with mud and the driver's side window down, Johnson said. According to Johnson, the license plate confirmed it was Leonard's patrol car.

The landing can be treacherous, especially for those not in rural areas, officials said. Johnson said a woman was rescued several weeks ago after going into the water at the same location.

Several agencies will investigate how the vehicle ended up in the water. However, Johnson noted that the vice president, a native of New York, appeared to be texting and radioing while driving in a poorly lit area he was not used to.

“We're operating under the theory that it was an accident — he missed his turn, he wasn't familiar and he did other things that caused him to go into the water,” Johnson said in a Thursday afternoon press release. Explanation.

According to Meigs County Sheriff Jackie Melton, Leonard joined the force after graduating from the training academy in December. He was on the night shift and “did a real good job,” Melton said.

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Authorities said Leonard lived in nearby Roane County with his wife and three children.

“It's a tough time for us here,” Meigs County Chief Deputy Brian Malone said at a news conference earlier. “It's something we've never dealt with in Meeks County.”

“Deputy Leonard was only here for two months, but he will become part of our family,” she said.

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