Saturday April 20th, 2024 1:38AM

Booking photo released for suspect charged with death of woman at UGA

By AccessWDUN Staff & Associated Press

University of Georgia Police said Friday afternoon a suspect has been arrested in connection with the death of a nursing student who was found dead Thursday on campus in Athens.

UGA Police Jeff Clark said they have arrested Jose Antonio Ibarra, 26, who lives in Athens but is not a U.S. citizen. 

"He has an apartment here in Athens, but as far as [if he is] undocumented, I'm not sure - that hasn't been confirmed," Clark said.

He is charged with malice murder, felony murder, aggravated battery, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, kidnapping, hindering a 911 call and concealing the death of another. His booking photo was released to AccessWDUN Saturday morning.

Laken Hope Riley, 22, was a current student at Augusta University's Athens campus but had previously been enrolled at UGA. She was found dead with "visible injuries" near Lake Herrick on east campus. Clark said Riley died from blunt force trauma.

Authorities have not given any details on a motive in the murder, but Clark described the incident as a "crime of opportunity." Police do not believe Riley and Ibarra knew each other prior to the crime. Ibarra was not a student at the University of Georgia.

Clark said authorities took "three or four" people into custody, but Ibarra will be the only arrest in the case.

"Evidence suggests that this was a solo act," Clark said.

Ibarra was booked at the Clarke County Jail. 

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Saturday morning that Ibarra's brother, Diego Ibarra, was also arrested Friday in Athens for allegedly possessing a fraudulent U.S. permanent resident card, also known as a green card.

 

Original story from the Associated Press published Friday at 9:31 a.m.:

A woman found dead on the University of Georgia campus was a student at a nearby nursing school, said authorities, who were checking security cameras and advising students to travel in groups and avoid the wooded area where her body was found.

Police do not have a suspect, University of Georgia Police Chief Jeff Clark said at a news conference late Thursday.

The woman was found Thursday afternoon after a friend told police she had not returned from a morning run, authorities said. She was unconscious and had “visible injuries” when officers found her, Clark said.

“When you have a suspect that's on the loose, there's always a danger but there's no immediate danger at this time,” Clark said.

The woman was a student at the Augusta University College of Nursing's Athens campus, the school said in a statement. Foul play in suspected, school officials said.

Officers searching the area found the woman’s body in a forested area behind Lake Herrick. That area is across a busy road from a large dorm and dining hall complex on what’s commonly called “East Campus.” Most of the students in those dorms are freshmen.

Clark said his department, along with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Athens-Clarke County Police Department, were conducting the investigation. He noted that there has not been a homicide on campus in the last 20 years.

“We’re not going to leave any rock unturned in this investigation,” he said.

The University of Georgia canceled classes Friday. Augusta University canceled classes at its Athens campus but said it will remain open as a gathering place for students, faculty and staff.

The death “hits a little too close to home,” said Veronica Bennett, the mother of a University of Georgia student. She's part of a group of moms pushing for security improvements on campus that go beyond the school's safety app, WSB-TV reported.

“As a parent, I get tired of that being UGA’s go-to. Oh, we have the safety app. Well, the safety app is not much of a deterrent,” Bennett told the Atlanta TV station.

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