Brother of man accused of killing nursing student on UGA campus likely had gang ties, documents show

ATHENS, Ga. — The brother of a man accused of murdering a 22-year-old nursing student on the University of Georgia campus was denied bond Thursday.

Laken Riley was beaten to death as she ran a trail on the UGA campus on Feb. 22. Venezuelan national Jose Ibarra was arrested the next day and charged with her murder.

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His brother, Diego, was also detained after police determined he showed them a fake green card.

Court documents filed to request Diego Ibarra be denied bond revealed new details about the case.


On Thursday, Diego Ibarra saw a judge for a probable cause and detention hearing. The U.S. Attorney’s Office also presented the government’s motion to detain him. That request was granted.

New court documents reveal that after Riley’s death, officers circulated photos of a man in a distinctive baseball cap they considered a suspect. The cap had an Adidas logo on it.

The day after Riley’s killing, they spotted a man wearing an identical hat in the parking lot of the Argo apartments. That man identified himself as Diego Ibarra. When officers asked him for identification, he produced a fake green card and was taken into custody, according to court documents.

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The motion then goes on to list a string of run-ins with U.S. law enforcement from the time Diego Ibarra first tried to enter the country in April 2023 to the months before the murder that he spent in Athens.

Diego Ibarra was arrested three times, once on DUI charges and two more times on shoplifting charges, but was released each time. His brother, Jose Ibarra, was with him on one of the two occasions Diego Ibarra is accused of shoplifting from the same Athens Walmart.

Prosecutors then detail all the signs that seem to suggest that Diego Ibarra is a member of a Venezuelan prison gang called Tren de Arugua.

Gang members typically have distinctive tattoos including weapons, stars, clocks, trains, five-pointed crowns and dollar signs.

Photos taken of Diego Ibarra on Feb. 23 show that he has tattoos of a five-pointed crown, five-pointed stars and a teardrop under his eye, which is also known to be gang-affiliated.

Members of Tren de Arugua also have distinctive hand gestures and wear Chicago Bulls gear, both of which Diego Ibarra displayed on social media before the murder. He also brandished guns, which he was not allowed to possess as a non-citizen.

“Based upon the foregoing facts, the Government respectfully requests that Ibarra be detained due to the risk that he will flee the jurisdiction of the Court and the danger that he poses to the safety of persons and the community,” prosecutors wrote.

It’s unclear if authorities believe Jose Ibarra was a member of the same gang.

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