Crime

Court documents show new details in killing of Georgia nursing student

The death of 22-year-old Laken Riley is fueling the debate over U.S. immigration policy after an undocumented immigrant was charged with her murder.

Alpha Chi Omega sorority members mourn the loss of their sorority sister, Laken Riley, during a vigil.
Alpha Chi Omega sorority members mourn the loss of their sorority sister, Laken Riley, during a vigil.
Joshua L. Jones / Athens Banner-Herald via AP
SMS

The suspect in the killing of a nursing student on the University of Georgia campus used an object as a weapon in the crime and he’s also accused of “disfiguring her skull,” according to newly filed arrest affidavits.

Jose Ibarra, who faces multiple murder and assault charges, is also accused of dragging 22-year-old Laken Riley to a secluded area on Thursday, according to one of the affidavits obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press. The allegation that he dragged Riley’s body was filed to support the charge of concealing the death of another person.

Augusta University via AP, File

Authorities have not said exactly how Riley was killed, only that her death was caused by blunt force trauma. Further details about the type of object used, or exactly how she was killed, are not included in the affidavits for arrest.

The affidavits, filed in Athens-Clarke County Superior Court, state that the crimes were committed between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Thursday.

Ibarra, 26, is a Venezuelan citizen who immigration authorities say unlawfully crossed into the United States in 2022.

Riley was a nursing student at Augusta University’s Athens campus, after starting her college career at the much larger Athens campus of the University of Georgia. She was found dead Thursday after a roommate reported she didn’t return from a morning run in a wooded area of the University of Georgia campus near its intramural fields.

Student's murder fueling immigration debate among Georgia lawmakers
Student's murder fueling immigration debate among Georgia lawmakers

Student's murder fueling immigration debate among Georgia lawmakers

Georgia's governor is open to state-level immigration initiatives, and Republicans in the state intend to back any new measures that arise.

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Hundreds of students and faculty members gathered Monday afternoon for a vigil for Riley organized by her sorority sisters at the University of Georgia campus. Many people cried and members of Alpha Chi Omega held carnations, a symbol of the sorority.

“Laken showed devotion with every aspect of her life,” said Chloe Mullis, president of the University of Georgia chapter of Alpha Chi Omega. “Doing things halfway just wasn’t an option. We lost one of the brightest lights that has ever been.”

Republicans including former President Donald Trump and Gov. Brian Kemp have used the killing to attack the immigration policies of President Joe Biden.

Murder of Georgia student out for a run renews female joggers' fears
Murder of Georgia student out for a run renews female joggers' fears

Murder of Georgia student out for a run renews female joggers' fears

The tragic death of 22-year-old Laken Hope Riley highlights the ongoing violence against female runners.

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U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement says Ibarra was detained by the Border Patrol on Sept. 8, 2022, after entering from Mexico near El Paso, Texas. He was released for further processing, according to ICE. It’s unclear if Ibarra applied for asylum.

According to ICE, Ibarra was arrested by New York police on Aug. 31 and charged with acting in a manner to injure a child less than 17 and a motor vehicle license violation. Ibarra was released before ICE could ask New York officials to hold him until immigration authorities could take him into custody, ICE said. New York officials said Sunday they had no record of the arrest.

The White House expressed condolences to Riley’s family and referred questions about the case to ICE and local law enforcement.