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Homicide suspected in student death on University of Georgia campus

Fletcher Page, Vanessa McCray, Shaddi Abusaid, Alexis Stevens and Olivia Wakim, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in News & Features

ATHENS, Ga. — Authorities identified the nursing student found dead Thursday in a suspected homicide on the University of Georgia campus as Laken Hope Riley.

Riley, a resident of Athens, was 22 years old, Clarke County Coroner Sonny Wilson said Friday morning.

The official cause of death is still pending and Wilson said Riley’s body was taken to the GBI Crime Lab in DeKalb County.

“The University of Georgia Police Department is actively investigating this homicide in close cooperation with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Athens-Clarke County Police Department and federal law enforcement partners,” UGA said in special safety update late Friday morning.

Riley was reported missing Thursday after a friend said she went for a morning run and didn’t return home. Her body was discovered near UGA’s intramural fields.

UGA said Riley was an undergraduate student at UGA until the spring of 2023, before becoming a nursing student at Augusta University’s nursing program in Athens. She made the fall 2023 dean’s list at Augusta University.

 

According to student records, Riley was from Woodstock, Georgia. She graduated in 2020 from River Ridge High School, where she ran cross country and was a member of the track team.

On social media, Riley’s family celebrated her milestones. Pictures show her first day of her senior year in high school, making gingerbread houses at the holidays, and running the 2023 AthHalf Marathon in Athens, finishing a few minutes over two hours. In a video from August, Riley walked across a stage to applause and donned her white coat during the Augusta University nursing program’s white coat ceremony.

Jeffrey Clark, chief of UGA’s police department, said Thursday night authorities did not have a suspect but that they were “actively investigating.”

“When you have a suspect that’s on the loose, there’s always a danger. But there’s no immediate danger,” Clark told reporters Thursday night.

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