Court documents shed new details in killing of nursing student at University of Georgia


ATLANTA (AP) — The illegal immigrant suspected in the killing of a nursing student on the University of Georgia campus used an object as a weapon in the crime according to newly filed arrest affidavits.

Jose Ibarra, who faces multiple murder and assault charges, is also accused of dragging 22-year-old Laken Riley to a secluded area on Thursday, according to one of the affidavits obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press. The allegation that he dragged Riley’s body was filed to support the charge of concealing the death of another person.

Authorities have not said exactly how Riley was killed, only that her death was caused by blunt force trauma. Further details about the type of object used, or exactly how she was killed, are not included in the affidavits for arrest.

The affidavits, filed in Athens-Clarke County Superior Court, state that the crimes were committed between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Thursday.

Ibarra, 26, is a Venezuelan citizen who immigration authorities say illegally crossed into the United States in 2022.

Riley was a nursing student at Augusta University’s Athens campus, after starting her college career at the much larger Athens campus of the University of Georgia. She was found dead Thursday after a roommate reported she didn’t return from a morning run in a wooded area of the University of Georgia campus near its intramural fields.

Hundreds of students and faculty members gathered Monday afternoon for a vigil for Riley organized by her sorority sisters at the University of Georgia campus. Many people cried and members of Alpha Chi Omega held carnations, a symbol of the sorority.

“Laken showed devotion with every aspect of her life,” said Chloe Mullis, president of the University of Georgia chapter of Alpha Chi Omega. “Doing things halfway just wasn’t an option. We lost one of the brightest lights that has ever been.”

U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement says Ibarra was detained by the Border Patrol on Sept. 8, 2022, after entering from Mexico near El Paso, Texas. He was released for further processing, according to ICE. It’s unclear if Ibarra applied for asylum.

According to ICE, Ibarra was arrested by New York police on Aug. 31 and charged with acting in a manner to injure a child less than 17 and a motor vehicle license violation. Ibarra was released before ICE could ask New York officials to hold him until immigration authorities could take him into custody, ICE said. New York officials said Sunday they had no record of the arrest.

Republican lawmakers in Georgia are also considering laws intended to crack down on immigration after Riley’s death. The House Governmental Affairs Committee on Monday advanced House Bill 1359 to the full House for more debate. Sponsored by Athens Republican Houston Gaines, the bill would let people seek to have their property taxes refunded if cities or counties refused to communicate with immigration authorities or if sheriffs refuse to check a suspected immigrant’s legal status.

“This is to make sure that local governments in this state enforce their own laws, and frankly, we’re going to hit them where it hurts, in the pocketbook,” Gaines told the committee.

The refunds would also apply if a local government refused to enforce vagrancy laws against homeless people.

Other bills pending would make it a crime for sheriffs to fail to check the legal status with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement of jailed suspected immigrants, and would require city and county law enforcement to act as deputies to ICE to arrest people in the country illegally.