Clarke County

Prosecutors not seeking death penalty against man accused in Laken Riley’s murder at UGA

ATHENS, Ga. — Prosecutors with the Clarke County District Attorney’s office will not be seeking the death penalty against Laken Riley’s accused killer, Jose Ibarra.

According to court documents obtained by Channel 2 Action News, the prosecution is seeking a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

On Friday, Ibarra appeared in court where he pleaded not guilty.

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A grand jury indicted Ibarra on 10 charges: malice murder, three counts of felony murder, kidnapping with bodily injuries, aggravated assault with intent to rape, aggravated battery, obstructing or hindering a person from making an emergency telephone call, tampering with evidence and Peeping Tom.

Riley’s parents and sister were there for the plea hearing.

Her family could be heard crying as soon as Ibarra walked into the courtroom. Deputies brought him inside with chains and cuffs around his waist and hands.

Riley’s mother was in tears as he stood up to sign the document that said he denies killing her daughter.

“We’ll waive formal arraignment and enter a plea of not guilty,” said Kaitlyn Beck, Ibarra’s court-ordered defense attorney.

District Attorney Deborah Gonzalez published a memo on her first day in office, promising that she would not seek the death penalty while prosecuting cases.


Judge Patrick Haggard said to plan for a trial in a matter of months.

“I would plan to have a status on the case in early August with a view toward trial this Fall,” said Haggard.

“The Fall is definitely reasonable, and the state will stand ready for trial,” Special Prosecutor Sheila Ross told the judge.

Riley, a 22-year-old nursing student, was attacked while she was running on the University of Georgia’s intramural fields Thursday, according to the UGA Police Department.

Ibarra, 26, was in the U.S. illegally from Venezuela.

He has been charged with malice murder, felony murder, aggravated battery, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, kidnapping, hindering a 911 call and concealing in connection to Riley’s death.

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