Illegal immigrant who killed Laken Riley wielded such force he 'disfigured her skull': report

Laken Riley Memorial fundraiser on GoFundMe
Laken Riley Memorial fundraiser on GoFundMe | Laken Riley Memorial/GoFundMe

The suspect in the murder of 22-year-old Laken Riley, a nursing student at Augusta University, is accused of using an object to strike her head with enough force to disfigure her skull, according to court documents. Jose Antonio Ibarra, an illegal immigrant from Venezuela, also had prior encounters with police before the murder, reports show. 

Authorities determined that Riley’s death was likely due to blunt force trauma. The young woman was found dead on the campus in Athens last week after a friend reported her missing. 

According to affidavits The Associated Press obtained Tuesday, in addition to “disfiguring” Riley’s skull, Ibarra allegedly dragged the woman’s body to a secluded location, which brought the additional charge of concealing the death of another person. 

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The court documents did not reveal specific details about Riley’s death nor describe the object used in the murder, according to the AP, which added that the murder is believed to have occurred between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Feb. 22. 

According to Fox 5, Ibarra had previous encounters with police before he became a suspect in Riley’s murder. An October 2022 field report from Athens-Clarke County police cited by the outlet showed that both Ibarra and his brother, Diego, were charged with shoplifting from Walmart. 

“Immigration attorney Eduardo Soto said police generally check any arrestees' immigration status, but since the shoplifting charge was a misdemeanor, both brothers were cited and released on the scene,” Fox 5 reported. 

Similarly, because Athens city officials decided to be a sanctuary city for illegal immigrants, authorities deny cooperation with the federal government when it comes to immigration laws and don't inform ICE when an illegal immigrant has committed a crime. 

Athens' Mayor Kelly Girtz was heckled by area residents during a Wednesday press conference for defending sanctuary city policies they believe contributed to Riley's death. 

“Please stop it. This is an invasion!” an audience member shouted, according to The Daily Caller. “When I was younger, I was a criminal and you know what I thought about doing? Crossing the border to Mexico to get away from my crimes. Thanks to Jesus Christ, He saved me and I no longer live that lawless life, but you do. You are lawless, Mr. Mayor.”

Authorities arrested Ibarra last week in connection with Riley's murder. The Venezuelan national entered the country illegally in September 2022 through El Paso, Texas. Ibarra was reportedly released due to a lack of detention space.

Since Biden took office, law enforcement officials at the Southwest border have encountered more than 7 million illegal immigrants. The number of illegal immigrants who have entered the country in that time period exceeds the populations of 37 U.S. states, as measured in the 2020 U.S. Census. 

Reports have also surfaced that Ibarra’s brother, Diego, had presented a fake green card to begin a temporary job as a dishwasher in the University of Georgia’s dining hall on Feb. 6. Diego was fired from his job and subsequently arrested and charged with green card fraud.

A spokesperson for the university said Diego failed to "submit further documentation required to keep the job and was never paid by the university" before he was "fired.” 

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that since Riley's murder, the University of Georgia announced that it has invested $7.3 million in new safety measures. The heightened security measures include a larger police budget and emergency call boxes. 

Days after Riley’s murder, a friend of the nursing student’s family released a statement on Sunday that included a request for privacy during this period of mourning. 

"We wish to thank the public for their prayers and thoughts during this tragic time. We thank the University of GA Police Department, Athens-Clarke County Police Department, the Clarke County District Attorney's Office, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for their quick response and diligent effort in the investigation and arrest of those individual(s) responsible for our daughter's death," the statement said.

"Laken was an amazing daughter, sister, friend and overall person in general. Her love for the Lord was exemplified in every aspect of her life. She will be missed every day, but we promise to honor her life moving forward in a very big way," the family continued, noting that Riley’s life was "tragically cut short."

In response to the young woman’s death, Georgia's Republican Gov. Brian Kemp wrote a letter to U.S. President Joe Biden criticizing his administration’s border policies. The governor also highlighted Riley’s murder, calling it a “devastating tragedy.” 

Biden has yet to address Riley's murder. 

Kemp demanded in the letter that the Biden administration publicly provide answers about why Georgia officials were not informed about the illegal status of the murder suspect. In addition, the Georgia governor questioned why his administration wasn't informed of the release of an illegal who presented "fraudulent asylum claims." 

"These tragedies are not unique to Georgia," Kemp wrote. "While we will continue to support Texas with National Guard resources as we have since 2019, federal action to secure the border is the only way to wholistically address this ongoing crisis and ensure Laken Riley's horrible fate is not replicated across the country."

Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: Follow her on Twitter: @Samantha_Kamman

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