Clarke County

Jose and Diego Ibarra: Court documents reveal immigration, criminal past in the United States

ATHENS — New details regarding the immigration and criminal history of a Venezuelan man accused of killing a 22-year-old nursing student, as well as his brother, who was arrested during the investigation, have been released.

Jose Ibarra, 26, has been charged with malice murder, felony murder, aggravated battery, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, kidnapping, hindering a 911 call and concealing in connection to the murder of 22-year-old Laken Riley.

Riley, 22, died Thursday after the Athens-Clarke County Police Department said someone attacked and killed her at the Intramural Fields on the University of Georgia’s campus Thursday.

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Athens-Clarke police Chief Jeffrey Clark said Riley died from blunt force trauma.

According to court documents obtained by Channel 2 Action News, Jose Ibarra and his brother, Diego Ibarra, lived off Milledge Avenue, less than two miles from where Riley’s body was found.

While searching for Jose Ibarra after confirming his involvement in the crime, officers spotted a man walking on the street who matched his description. Officials with the U.S. Attorney’s Office said that man was Diego Ibarra, who presented a green card that officers determined was fake. He was taken into custody following the encounter.

After officers located and arrested Jose Ibarra, Chief Clark said during a press conference Friday that they determined that although he was not a U.S. citizen, investigators were unsure of his immigration status. He added that Jose Ibarra did not know Riley before the attack.

WSB Tonight’s Courtney Francisco dug deeper into Jose and Diego Ibarra’s time in Athens.


Federal agents told Francisco they could not confirm when Jose Ibarra crossed the border into the U.S. Immigration officials added that they also could not verify his immigration status.

However, New York police confirmed Jose Ibarra was there in Aug. 2023 and was arrested after he was caught driving an unregistered, uninsured car with a five-year-old inside. He was charged with reckless endangerment of a child and acting in a manner injurious to a child.

WABC reported that Jose Ibarra was in New York with his wife and child before leaving for Georgia shortly after he bonded out of jail.

According to court documents, immigration officers reported that Diego Ibarra crossed the border into Texas in 2023, where he claimed asylum. In an arrest affidavit, the officer wrote, “Due to a finding of credible fear, Diego Ibarra was released to New York, New York pending adjudication of his claim for asylum.”

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Authorities said they believe Diego Ibarra arrived in Georgia from New York by Sept. 2023 after officers arrested him for the first time and charged him with driving under the influence without a license.

A month later, officials said Diego Ibarra was arrested again for shoplifting. Court documents said he was then arrested in Dec. for failing to appear for fingerprinting.

In Feb., UGA officials told Channel 2 Action News he had been working as a campus dishwasher at Bolton Dining Hall. A spokesperson for the university said Diego Ibarra gave them a fake green card to get the job, but since he never submitted the correct documents to keep his job, he was never paid.

Both brothers are in the Athens-Clark County jail with no bond.