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UGA murder suspect didn't know victim, killing was 'crime of opportunity,' police say

Alexis Stevens and Fletcher Page, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in News & Features

ATHENS, Ga. — A 26-year-old Athens man has been charged with murder in the death of a nursing student on the University of Georgia campus.

The man, Jose Antonio Ibarra, was charged with malice murder, felony murder, aggravated battery, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, kidnapping, hindering a 911 call, and concealing the death of another in the death of 22-year-old Laken Hope Riley, according to UGA police Chief Jeffrey Clark.

Clark provided updates Friday night in the Tate Center in Athens, the day after Riley was found dead in the woods. Investigators believe she died from blunt force trauma.

Ibarra lives in Athens, but is not a U.S. citizen, Clark said. He has no known affiliation with the university. Investigators do not believe Ibarra knew Riley.

“At this time the investigation suggests that they had no (prior) relationship. He did not know her at all,” Clark said. “I think this was a crime of opportunity where he saw an individual and bad things happened.”

Clark expressed his condolences to Riley’s family and the campus community.


“This is heartbreaking,” he said. “This is a heartbreaking time for the university.”

Just before the news conference started, four UGA students entered the room to hear the updates.

“Y’all are students, right? Y’all can come in,” former UGA police Chief Jimmy Williamson said. “You have the right to be here and hear this.”

Clark said video cameras helped lead to the arrest, along with work of various law enforcement agencies, including Athens-Clarke County Police and the GBI.


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