Suspect in death of Augusta University student found on UGA campus taken into custody

Feb 24, 2024, 5:30 AM

Police are investigating the scene at the University of Georgia in Athens where a nursing student w...

Police are investigating the scene at the University of Georgia in Athens where a nursing student was found dead. (CNN via CNN Newsource)

(CNN via CNN Newsource)

Originally Published: 23 FEB 24 09:16 ET
Updated: 23 FEB 24 22:01 ET

(CNN) — Campus police arrested a suspect in the killing of an Augusta University College of Nursing student on the University of Georgia campus in Athens, according to local authorities.

Campus police said they are recommending charges against Jose Antonio Ibarra, 26, of Athens, including felony murder, false imprisonment, kidnapping, and concealing the death of another in the killing of Laken Riley. Ibarra will be taken to the Clark County Jail, police said at a Friday news conference.

Riley, a junior on the dean’s list at Augusta University College of Nursing, was found dead near a lake at the University of Georgia’s campus Thursday after jogging in the area. UGA Police Chief Jeff Clark described her killing as a “crime of opportunity” by “an individual who woke up with bad intentions.” There was no evidence the two knew each other, according to Clark. Riley died from blunt force trauma, he added.

Police say they used footage from campus security cameras as well as physical evidence to tie the suspect to Riley’s killing, Clark said. They also executed a search warrant at the suspect’s apartment.

The suspect does not have an “extensive” criminal history, according to Clark. Ibarra is a resident of Athens, but not a US citizen or a student at UGA, he added.

“The evidence suggests that this was a solo act,” Clark said, adding authorities had taken 3 or 4 people in custody but only arrested Ibarra. He said there were “no indications of a continuing threat to the community related to this case at this time.”

UGA earlier announced police had identified a person of interest who was being questioned amid an intense search for the student’s killer.

Investigators scoured the wooded area on campus trying to find clues as to who may have killed Riley.

“We want to stress that this continues to be an active ongoing investigation,” spokesperson Greg Trevor said.

Before her enrollment at Augusta University, Riley was a student at the University of Georgia until 2023, UGA spokesperson Cole Sosebee said.

Classes were cancelled Friday as authorities continued to search for clues and two college communities grieve.

Authorities received a call around noon Thursday from a person who was concerned after their friend went jogging at the university’s intramural fields and never returned, University of Georgia Police Chief Jeffrey L. Clark said Thursday evening.

Investigators found the jogger’s body around 12:38 p.m. in an area behind a nearby lake, Clark said.

All classes on the University of Georgia’s Athens campus were canceled Friday and will resume Monday, the school said.

Augusta University canceled Friday classes at the College of Nursing campus in Athens, which is about 2.5 miles from the University of Georgia’s intramural fields.

Augusta University’s president issued a statement Thursday, mourning the loss of the student.

“It is with deepest sorrow that I share with you the news that one of our students at our College of Nursing campus at Athens has passed away,” Augusta University President Brooks A. Keel said in a letter to his school’s community.

UGA suffers 2 tragedies less than a day apart

Riley’s body was discovered hours after the “sudden death” of a UGA student the night before, campus officials said.

That student was found dead in Brumby Hall, and police found “no indications of any criminal actions or foul play,” according to UGA police records. The incident was listed as a death investigation/suicide.

“The past 24 hours have been a traumatic time for our university,” the school said Thursday. “And as we continue to mourn that tragic loss of life, today’s devastating news will uniquely test the resolve of our campus community, particularly our students.”

This story has been updated with additional information.

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Suspect in death of Augusta University student found on UGA campus taken into custody