Police identify suspect in Georgia nursing student's slaying

Feb. 23 (UPI) -- Police in Georgia have released the name of a suspect now detained in connection to the death of 22-year-old nursing student Laken Riley, whose body was found at the University of Georgia this week.

Campus Police Chief Jeff Clark confirmed at a Friday news conference they had arrested 26-year-old Jose Antonio Ibarra, although conceding a motive for the killing is not yet clear.


"He did not know her at all. I think this was a crime of opportunity," Clark said of Ibarra. "He did not attend school at the University of Georgia. This was an individual who woke up with bad intentions that day."

Officials said Ibarra moved to Georgia from Venezuela, confirming he is not a U.S. citizen. Clark said detectives do not yet know when he arrived at the campus in Athens, Ga.

Ibarra faces charges of malice and felony murder, aggravated battery, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, kidnapping, hindering a 911 call and concealing the death of another.

Riley's body was found in a wooded area of the campus Thursday afternoon near intramural athletics fields after a friend phoned 911 and reported her missing when she failed to return from a job.


Clark confirmed Riley likely died from blunt force trauma to the head.

Campus security cameras helped lead police to identify Ibarra.

According to Athens-Clarke County Coroner Sonny Wilson, an autopsy was underway Friday.

Clark told reporters Thursday Riley was discovered unconscious and not breathing with visible injuries.

Augusta University confirmed she was a student at its College of Nursing in Athens. She was part of a program that allowed students from the university to take part in campus life and activities at the University of Georgia, WXIA-TV reported.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Athens Police Department were investigating the incident but Clark said no immediate threat remained in the area at the time.

Classes at the University of Georgia were canceled and were set to resume Monday.

"We are grateful for the news from the University of Georgia Police Department that investigators have a suspect in custody for the murder of 22-year-old Laken Riley," the school said in a statement. "The apprehension of a suspect, however, does not erase the fact that a vibrant young life was senselessly taken on our campus."


"Laken attended UGA as a student until May 2023, when she transferred to the Augusta University College of Nursing at Athens. She remained actively involved in her sorority at UGA and had many friends here on campus. We mourn the loss of her precious life."

Augusta University also canceled classes on Friday.

The death is the first homicide on at the campus since student Donna Lynn Allen was stabbed to death by an assailant as she walked to her car in 1983.

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