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Riley Gaul denied new trial in 2016 killing of ex-girlfriend Emma Walker

A Knox County jury convicted Gaul, now 22, of numerous counts including the November 2016 murder of the Central High School teen.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Three years after his trial, the 22-year-old Knoxville man convicted of shooting his ex-girlfriend to death as she slept sought a new trial, but was denied Friday.

William Riley Gaul appeared in Knox County Criminal Court on Friday morning to make his case. He's a prisoner in the Northwest Correctional Complex in Tiptonville.

The judge denied his request citing a lack of evidence. His attorney said he plans to appeal the ruling

Gaul was transported this week from prison to Knox County custody.

The former high school and college football player is serving a life sentence with a chance at parole after 51 years for killing Walker in her home in November 2016. She was a 16-year-old Central High School student, the same school he had graduated from in the spring.

They'd had a tumultuous relationship while dating, court records show. At the time of the murder, Gaul was attending Maryville College.

Authorities portrayed him as a jealous and possessive ex-boyfriend who harassed Walker. She was shot through a wall of her home as she slept.

Gaul's attorney, Wesley Stone, filed the motion to acquit the young man or give him a new trial three years ago. Knox County Criminal Court Judge Bob McGee retired in late 2019 and then COVID-19 hit.

Stone raised numerous reasons why his client should be acquitted or given another trial including the jury not being sequestered for a case that drew national attention, a crime scene photograph of Watson, objection to coverage by Law and Crime and McGee's refusal to toss some of the grand jury's counts against Gaul.

McGee came in to hear the motion.

Gaul has decades left to serve for killing Walker.

Her family said before sentencing that they thought Gaul deserved to be executed. When Gaul killed Walker, he forever disrupted their lives, they say in victim impact statements.

TV networks and People magazine were among the news outlets nationally that reported and covered the case.

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