Suspect in murder of nursing student entered U.S. illegally, ICE says

The suspect in the murder of Georgia nursing student Laken Hope Riley entered the U.S. illegally from Venezuela, officials said Sunday.

The suspect, 26-year-old Jose Ibarra, was arrested by U.S. Customs and Border Protection on Sept. 8, 2022, after he unlawfully entered the U.S. near El Paso, Texas, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a statement.

Ibarra was released by U.S. border officials pending a review of his immigration case, ICE said.

According to the ICE statement, Ibarra was arrested almost a year later, on Aug. 31, 2023, by New York Police Department officers and charged with acting in a manner to injure a child less than 17 and a motor vehicle license violation. The statement did not elaborate on the details of the charges.

However, the NYPD said it has no record of an arrest of Ibarra.

Booking photo of Jose Antonio Ibarra / Credit: Clarke County Sheriff's Office
Booking photo of Jose Antonio Ibarra / Credit: Clarke County Sheriff's Office

The suspect was arrested again on Friday in connection with the murder of Riley after her body was discovered in a wooded area on the Athens campus of the University of Georgia, police said at a news briefing Friday.

The Athens-Clarke County Superior Court on Monday denied Ibarra bail. ICE has requested to detain Ibarra if and when he's released from criminal custody so it can seek his deportation.

Riley, 22, was found after a friend told police she hadn't returned from a morning run. She died of blunt force trauma, Jeffrey Clarke, the police chief for the University of Georgia Police Department, said at the briefing. She was a nursing student at the Athens campus of Augusta University, according to university President Brooks Keel.

Laken Riley / Credit: Augusta University
Laken Riley / Credit: Augusta University

Clark said the suspect, who was not a student at UGA, is being held on charges that include malice murder, felony murder, aggravated battery, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, kidnapping and hindering a 911 call.

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

The University of Georgia said classes were resuming Monday and a vigil was slated for Monday afternoon for Riley and another student, who died in a dorm last week.

—Camilo Montoya-Galvez and The Associated Press contributed reporting. This story has been updated to reflect a new statement from ICE on the date of the arrest and the NYPD's statement saying it has no record of Ibarra's arrest.

Rod Stewart and Jools Holland record swing era jazz classics

Eye Opener: Donald Trump beats Nikki Haley in South Carolina primary

U.S. Army corrects miscarriage of justice in Jim Crow-era Texas