The mother of University of Missouri student Riley Strain issued an emotional plea to parents after her son’s body was pulled from a river in west Nashville on Friday.

“I just ask that you mommas out there hug your babies tight tonight, please,” the mourning mother, Michelle Whiteid, told reporters. “Please for me, hug your babies tight.”

Whiteid, fighting back tears, also expressed her appreciation for the outpouring of support for her family since Strain’s disappearance some two weeks ago. His father, Ryan Gilbert, specifically thanked the Metro Nashville Police Department and the United Cajun Navy, as well as the other crews that helped scour the water in boats for the 22-year-old Mizzou student.

“It’s just unbelievable what they’ve done for us,” he added. “You’ve helped us get some closure and let us take our boy home.

Strain went missing earlier this month during a trip to Tennessee with his fraternity brothers for spring formal. He was last seen alive on surveillance video the night of March 8, shortly after getting kicked out of Luke’s 32 Bridge on Broadway. Strain’s disappearance sparked a weeks-long search effort, which culminated in the discovery of his body on Friday.

Riley Strain seen in surveillance video crossing 1st Ave N to Gay St in Nashville on Friday. (Metro Nashville Police Dept.)

Metro Nashville Police Dept

Riley Strain seen in surveillance video crossing 1st Ave N to Gay St in Nashville on Friday.

A worker for a company along the Cumberland River spotted Strain’s remains around 7:30 a.m. and called 911. When authorities arrived on the scene, they were able to immediately confirm it was Strain thanks to “several identifying objects.” Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake told reporters the missing college student still had his Apple watch on his wrist and that he was wearing the same black-and-white shirt he had on at the time of his disappearance.

His cause of death was not provided, but Drake said authorities at this time do not suspect foul play. An autopsy is pending.

Strain’s stepfather, Chris Whiteid, said it has been “an emotional roller coaster” but expressed his extreme gratitude “for everything that you’ve done for our family.”

“We have learned through this ordeal that everybody has brought all the good to us,” Whiteid continued. “We’ve had a little bad. You’re gonna have that. But it has given us faith in people that sometimes gets clouded by what we’re constantly hearing.”

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