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Suspect Arrested in Laken Riley Murder


Jose Antonio Ibarra, 26, was named the primary suspect in this week’s murder of Laken Riley, a nursing student hailing from Augusta University, whose life was cut short on the grounds of the University of Georgia campus in Athens.

Ibarra, a non-U.S. citizen residing in Athens, faces charges of first-degree murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, kidnapping, and obstructing an emergency call. A mugshot was not immediately available.

University of Georgia Police Chief Jeffrey L. Clark, during a Friday press briefing, announced Ibarra’s apprehension and confirmed that Riley, 22, died from blunt force trauma.

“The evidence is robust,” Chief Clark said, adding that campus security cameras were a big help in making the arrest.

Three to four other people were taken into custody during the investigation, but only Ibarra faces charges, the chief said. He said Ibarra is believed to be from Venezuela.

Riley was not a student at University of Georgia, but a nursing student at Augusta University, which has a campus in Athens. Augusta University said they are in a partnership with UGA, allowing students to participate in UGA campus activities.

Riley’s roommate called campus police after Riley went for a jog Thursday morning at the university’s intramural fields and did not return. Her body was found a short time later in a wooded area around Lake Herrick.

Authorities assured the community that Ibarra had no prior relationship with Riley, suggesting that her death was a crime of opportunity rather than premeditation. Chief Clark said there was no further threat to the campus.

Described by her mother as intelligent, diligent, and compassionate, Riley’s life resonated deeply within the community. She was involved with the Alpha Chi Omega sorority and had roots in Woodstock, Georgia.

Meanwhile, the University of Georgia rallied behind its grieving community, offering support and canceling classes until Monday to facilitate the healing process.

In a statement, Augusta University said, “We have learned this morning that authorities in Athens have confirmed the identity of our College of Nursing student who passed away Thursday. We extend our deepest sympathies to the family of Laken Riley, a junior and Dean’s List student who studied at our campus in Athens.”

Greg Rickabaugh
Greg Rickabaugh
Greg Rickabaugh is an award-winning crime reporter in the Augusta-Aiken area with experience writing for The Augusta Chronicle, The Augusta Press and serving as publisher of The Jail Report. Rickabaugh is a 1994 graduate of the University of South Carolina and has appeared on several crime documentaries on the Investigation Discovery channel.
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