RUTHERFORD COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — A 4-year-old girl was reunited with Rutherford County deputies and officers for the first time since they helped rescue her after she was reportedly abducted from her North Carolina home.
On Friday, March 31, Riley Harper Bockes dashed to the outstretched arms of Rutherford County Sheriff’s Deputy Denise Smotherman, who cared for her the night she was rescued on Jan. 5, 2022.
An AMBER Alert was issued for Bockes that same day after she was abducted by her father, according to the sheriff’s office. Authorities said her father drove across state lines to Rutherford County after allegedly killing Bockes’ mother.
He later crashed that night on Interstate 24 near South Church Street in Murfreesboro. Deputies recognized the car from the AMBER Alert and began searching nearby motels for Bockes with Murfreesboro police.
She was found safe at the Select Inn on South Church Street in Murfreesboro. As of Thursday, April 6, Bockes’ father was still awaiting trial for first-degree murder.
Bockes has since been placed in a new home with her adult sister, her husband and their three children in North Carolina. The family returned to Rutherford County Friday night to have dinner with the officers and deputies who rescued Bockes.
In a social media post, Smotherman said she thought Bockes might have forgotten her, but that was not the case as they reunited more than a year later.
The night was filed with smiles and hugs as Bockes visited with the many law enforcement officers who aided in her rescue. According to the sheriff’s office, Bockes had asked for Smotherman, who she called her “best friend,” before she even arrived.
“For her to actually remember who we are, it’s awesome. I’m glad to see she’s doing well. She’s in an awesome home,” said Smotherman, who gave Bockes a bear with one of her older uniform shirts.
Murfreesboro Police Officer Corey Ridiner, who helped locate Bockes, also got a chance to visit with her Friday night.
Ridiner gave her a bag of gifts and a bear engraved with an MPD patch. Bockes remembered Ridiner as “the one who gave (her) pizza.”
Bockes also shared some pets with K9 Beau, who tracked her to the motel room with Murfreesboro K9 Officer Cody Shanabarger, and other law enforcement officers gifted her a large stuffed cat and a shadow box with patches and challenge coins.
Sgt. James Holloway said it was rewarding to see how the work the officers did last year paid off in watching Riley interact with them again. According to Ridiner, it’s rare for officers to be reunited with victims.
“It’s good to see Riley so happy,” Ridiner said.