Clarke County

Laken Riley: Here’s what we know about nursing student killed on UGA campus

ATHENS, Ga. — We are learning more about the woman who was found dead on the University of Georgia campus in Athens on Thursday.

Police said Laken Riley, 22, was found dead after going for a jog, on the university’s intermural fields and never returned.

Police found her unconscious and injured in a wooded area behind the fields around 12:30 p.m. Thursday. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Investigators announced Friday night that they had taken out arrest warrants against 26-year-old Jose Antonio Ibarra and that Riley died from blunt force trauma.

Riley was a nursing student at the Augusta University campus in Athens and had also attended UGA through the spring of 2023 when she transferred to AU.

In a statement from Augusta University, it said they “extend our deepest sympathies to the family of Laken Riley, a junior and Dean’s List student.”


“This sudden loss of one of our students is truly heartbreaking,” the statement went on to say. “Please keep Laken’s family, friends and fellow nursing students in your thoughts and prayers.”

Friends of Riley’s confirmed to Channel 2 Action News that she was a member of Alpha Chi Omega sorority.

“This is a tragic day and I want to offer my most sincerest condolences to the grieving family, friends, and campus partners,” UGA Police Chief Jeff Clark said. “We are going to leave no rock unturned during this investigation.”

Classes at UGA and the Augusta University College of Nursing have been canceled for Friday.

Channel 2′s Michele Newell learned that Riley graduated from River Ridge High School in Cherokee County in 2020 and ran on the track team for four years.

Riley’s church, Woodstock City Church, also released a statement from their lead pastor, Samer Massad, reading:

“From Woodstock City Church’s Lead Pastor, Samer Massad:

“We are devasted by the news of the tragic death of Laken Riley. Laken’s family are active members of our church community. Our prayers are with them, as is our support to walk alongside them through this difficult time.”

The district sent her a statement, saying:

“Our community and our world lost a shining light with the tragic passing of Laken. An outstanding scholar athlete, Laken inspired classmates and teachers with her love of learning and her kindness to all. We ask that the community please keep her family in their hearts.”

Her cross-country coach also issued a statement, writing:

“Laken ran on the River Ridge cross-country team for four years and competed in the GHSA State Cross-Country Final various times in Carrollton. She was an unselfish individual who relinquished her opportunity to run Finals her senior year because she thought she was not 100% fit. Her passion for healthcare science and running are to be admired. She will always accompany us as we run. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family.”

Anyone with information potentially related to this death is asked to contact the UGA Police Department immediately at 706-542-2200.

To donate to Riley’s memorial fund, click here.