UGA Student Death: The Nursing Student Killed on UGA Campus

Laken Hope Riley, a 22-year-old nursing student at Augusta University’s Athens campus, tragically lost her life on the University of Georgia campus on February 22, 2024. After heading out for a run at the intramural fields and failing to return, her body was discovered with visible injuries in a wooded area behind Lake Herrick.

This heartbreaking incident was determined to be a homicide, leading to the arrest of Jose Antonio Ibarra, who now faces multiple charges including murder, kidnapping, and false imprisonment.

The profound shock and sorrow rippled through the community, igniting discussions about campus safety and security. Let us take a moment to remember Laken Hope Riley and honor her life and legacy.

Remembering Laken Hope Riley

Laken Hope Riley was a junior and Dean’s List student at the Augusta University College of Nursing’s Athens campus, driven by her aspiration to become a nurse. Having previously attended the University of Georgia, where she was an undergraduate and member of the Alpha Chi Omega sorority, Laken’s academic prowess and athletic accomplishments were commendable.

Graduating from River Ridge High School in 2020, she excelled in cross country and track while earning recognition as a standout scholar-athlete. Described by those who knew her as kind-hearted, intelligent, compassionate, and radiant, Laken embodied a spirit of generosity, love for learning, and zest for life.

With a promising future ahead, she was eagerly anticipating graduation and embarking on her professional journey.

Community Response to the Tragedy

The news of Laken Hope Riley’s passing evoked an outpouring of sorrow, disbelief, and solidarity within the community, particularly among those who shared personal or academic connections with her.

Her family, friends, classmates, and sorority sisters mourned her loss and paid tribute to her memory through heartfelt messages and public vigils, while educators, coaches, and counselors offered support and praise for her remarkable character and accomplishments.

Augusta University and the University of Georgia responded by canceling classes and providing counseling services to facilitate healing among students, faculty, and staff. Both institutions issued statements of sympathy and committed to collaborating with law enforcement to safeguard their campuses.

Progress of the Investigation and Legal Proceedings

The investigation into Laken Hope Riley’s tragic death remains ongoing, with the UGA police, Athens-Clarke County police, and Georgia Bureau of Investigation working tirelessly to uncover the truth.

Meanwhile, the suspect, Jose Antonio Ibarra, a 26-year-old undocumented immigrant from Venezuela residing near the UGA intramural fields, awaits legal proceedings. Held without bond at the Clarke County jail, Ibarra faces a slew of charges, including murder, aggravated assault, kidnapping, and hindering a 911 call.

Additionally, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has initiated deportation proceedings against him. As the motive behind this heinous crime remains unclear, authorities urge anyone with relevant information to come forward and assist in the investigation.


Laken Hope Riley’s untimely passing stands as a poignant reminder of the fragility of life and the indiscriminate nature of violence. A cherished daughter, sister, friend, student, and aspiring nurse, her radiant spirit touched countless hearts and left an indelible mark on the world.

In her memory, let us seek justice and strive to create safer, more compassionate communities where tragedies like hers are prevented. Laken’s legacy of kindness, resilience, and unwavering determination will forever endure, ensuring that she is remembered with love, reverence, and profound gratitude. She was Laken Hope Riley, and her light will never be extinguished.

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