Students, parents rattled after nursing student found dead on UGA campus; classes canceled

UPDATE 2/23/2024: A woman found dead on the University of Georgia campus after she went for a jog has been identified as 22-year-old Laken Hope Riley, according to the Athens-Clarke County coroner.

Police announced Friday night they had issued arrest warrants for 26-year-old Jose Antonio Ibarra, who is expected to be charged with malice murder, felony murder, aggravated battery, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, kidnapping, hindering a 911 call and concealing the death of another. Here’s the latest on the investigation.

Police suspect foul play after a woman was found dead on the campus of the University of Georgia Thursday.

Just after noon on Thursday, UGA police received a call from someone asking officers to perform a welfare check on a friend who went for a run at the intramural fields in the morning and had not returned.

Officers began searching the area and eventually found the woman dead behind Lake Herrick, which is a short distance away from the fields.

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The Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Athens-Clarke County Police are investigating this death in addition to university police.

UGA confirmed to ABC News that the victim was an undergraduate student until the spring of 2023. Augusta University confirmed the victim is a student at their College of Nursing campus in Athens. Her name has not been released.

Classes at UGA and the Augusta University College of Nursing have been canceled for tomorrow.

“We have been fully briefed on this terrible situation. Foul play is suspected, and we are already receiving support from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Athens-Clarke County Police Department to investigate this crime,” UGA officials said.

Officials said in a news conference Thursday night that they are considering the woman’s death a crime and that they are still searching for a suspect.

“This is a tragic day and I want to offer my most sincerest condolences to the grieving family, friends, and campus partners,” UGA Police Chief Jeff Clark said. “We are going to leave no rock unturned during this investigation.”


Channel 2′s Michael Doudna was live in Athens on WSB Tonight at 11 p.m. UGA police said the investigation is still ongoing as police are still trying to identify who murdered this young woman —in broad daylight — in a popular spot.

“There has not been a homicide in the last 20 years here on campus,” said Clark.

According to police, the nursing student went for a run in the morning. When she didn’t come home, a friend called police.

“The individual was unconscious and not breathing and had visible injuries,” said Clark.

The death rattled both students and parents.

“That hits a little too close to home,” said Veronica Bennett.

Bennett’s daughter is a UGA junior. She’s part of a group of mothers pushing for security improvements she says the university has rejected, such as blue safety lights, that go beyond the UGA safety app.

“As a parent, I get tired of that being UGA’s go-to. Oh, we have the safety app. Well, the safety app is not much of a deterrent,” said Bennett.

As for the case, police combed the scene into the night---looking for clues to try and find the person responsible.

“My investigators will be working on this case day and night. They will be looking at every security camera we have,”

NewsChopper 2 was over the scene Thursday afternoon, where crime scene tape was strung up in the woods and officers were roaming the woods.

This is the second on-campus death at UGA in the past 24 hours. A student was found dead at Brumby Hall on Wednesday night.

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The student’s identity and cause of death have not been released.

Anyone with information potentially related to this death is asked to contact the UGA Police Department immediately at 706-542-2200.