Who is Laken Riley? All we know about nursing student killed in UGA campus as suspect arrested 

Suspect arrested after nursing student Laken Riley found dead on UGA Campus (Image via UGA/Facebook)
Suspect arrested after nursing student Laken Riley found dead on UGA Campus (Image via UGA/Facebook)

Laken Riley, a 22-year-old nursing student at the Augusta University campus in Athens, was identified as the victim who was killed when out for a jog on the University of Georgia (UGA) intramural fields.

Riley, who also went to UGA in spring 2023 before she transferred to Augusta, was a member of Alpha Chi Omega sorority. As previously reported, Riley was found dead on the UGA intramural fields by campus police on Thursday, February 22, 2024, after a concerned friend notified authorities that she had not returned from a jog.

In a press conference on Friday, UGA police Chief Jeffrey Clark revealed that Riley’s cause of death was “blunt-force trauma.”

Laken Riley's mom described her as a phenomenal nurse after she made the dean's list earlier this month

According to WSBTV, Laken Riley, who was on her school track team for four years, graduated from River Ridge High School in Cherokee County in 2020. Riley’s Facebook account, which contained sporadic updates, said she went to UGA.

Her mom, Alyson Phillips, a retired teacher at Arnold Mill Elementary School who also went to UGA, announced earlier this month that her daughter Laken had made the Dean’s list at Augusta University, adding she was going to be a phenomenal nurse.

“Proud mom moment! Laken made Dean’s List (her name is in the top right corner). This girl works harder than anyone I know! She is going to be a phenomenal nurse.”

Alyson's Facebook also revealed Laken turned 20 on January 10, 2024. At the time, she wrote:

“Happy birthday to my beautiful, smart, hard-working, kind and thoughtful Laken. I am so proud of you and love you beyond words. I wish I could be with you today. I hope you have an awesome day celebrating with your friends!”

Alyson has not commented on her daughter’s death. However, Laken’s sister, Lauren, took to social media shortly after her sibling was found dead.

In a devastating post on Instagram, Lauren described Laken as a 'built-in best friend' and added:

“This isn’t fair and I will never understand it but I know you are in heaven with the man you loved best right now. I don't know how I’m going to do this but it’s all going to be for you from now on. I cannot wait to give you the biggest hug someday. I miss you and love you forever, Laken."

WSBTV also reported that Laken was a member of Woodstock City Church, who released a statement from their lead pastor, Samer Massad.

“We are devastated by the news of the tragic death of Laken Riley. Laken’s family are active members of our church community. Our prayers are with them, as is our support to walk alongside them through this difficult time.”

What we know about the suspect Jose Antonio Ibarra

Image of the suspect in Laken Riley murder (Image via The Daily Felon/Facebook)
Image of the suspect in Laken Riley murder (Image via The Daily Felon/Facebook)

On Friday, in a press conference, UGA police Chief Jeffrey Clark announced the arrest of 26-year-old Jose Antonio Ibarra in connection to the murder of Laken Riley.

According to multiple reports, Ibarra had several charges against him, including murder, aggravated assault, kidnapping, and concealing the death. Journalist Dave Bondy, citing DHS sources and CBP documents, reported the suspect as a Venezuelan national who entered the U.S. illegally in September 2022 through El Paso, Texas.

Police said the suspect and the victim did not have a prior relationship and described the killing as a ‘crime of opportunity.’ They said there was overwhelming evidence against the suspect in the case.

Police did not disclose additional information due to the active nature of the investigation.

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