Tennessee Deputy Found Dead in River with Woman He Arrested Inside Submerged Patrol Car

The deputy joined the force after he graduated from the academy last December.

(Image via WTVC)

The bodies of a Tennessee deputy, the woman he apprehended, and his vehicle were found in a river after he went missing following making his very first arrest.

According to local authorities, Meigs County Deputy Robert "R.J." Leonard's body was found while his vehicle was also pulled out of the river on Thursday. Another body was recovered in the backseat that authorities believe is the woman Leonard arrested. 

Leonard was reportedly on his way to respond to a man and woman that were fighting Wednesday night. He arrested the woman and while driving to the county jail, the sheriff's office lost communication with him. However, one of his last means of communication was sending a text to his wife that he made an arrest. 

"His wife texted back and said, 'That's good' or 'That's great,'" Hamilton County Sheriff Austin Garrett said at a press briefing on Thursday. "We know that his phone did not evidently receive that text."

Leonard also sent out a radio communication to dispatch around the time he texted his wife but they couldn’t hear anything besides the officer saying “water,” according to Meigs County District Attorney Russell Johnson.

“They triangulated the last position of his phone and the Life360 that his wife has attached to his phone and it appears that they're almost in the same location," Johnson said. "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.”

Leonard joined the force following his graduation from the training academy in December. He was married and had three children. 

"It's a hard time for us here," Meigs County Chief Deputy Brian Malone said at the press briefing. "It's something that we don't ever deal with here in Meigs County."

He added, “Deputy Leonard had only been here for a couple months, but he'd become part of our family.”

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