Suspect in killing of Georgia student Laken Riley charged with murder

<span>A memorial to Laken Riley on campus at Augusta University in Georgia in February.</span><span>Photograph: Joshua L Jones/AP</span>
A memorial to Laken Riley on campus at Augusta University in Georgia in February.Photograph: Joshua L Jones/AP

The suspect in the killing of the Augusta University student Laken Riley, 22, has been indicted on 10 charges, including malice murder and kidnapping.

Jose Antonio Ibarra, 26, faces three counts of felony murder and several other accusations. Among the charges are new allegations that he intended to rape the student, and that he spied on a staff member at the University of Georgia on the same day Riley was killed.

Riley was studying nursing at Augusta University in Athens, Georgia, at the time of her death, having previously been an undergraduate at the University of Georgia. She was out jogging on 22 February when she was reported missing.

Her body was found later in an area of woodland behind the University of Georgia campus. Police said she had suffered “visible injuries” and gave the cause of death as blunt force trauma.

The murder sent shockwaves across Georgia, through the US and beyond. It was quickly seized upon by politicians who brought Laken’s death into the heated debate surrounding immigration at the southern border.

Ibarra and his brother, Venezuelan citizens, had crossed into the US illegally in 2022 near El Paso in Texas. Last October they were called to court for shoplifting but failed to turn up for the hearing.

Ibarra was living in an apartment close to the campus of the University of Georgia at the time of Riley’s killing.

Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential candidate, has made several references to the killing in his campaign rallies. At an event in Dayton, Ohio, in March, he blamed Joe Biden for Riley’s death.

“Laken Riley would be alive today if Biden had not unleashed his savage attack on America,” Trump said.

President Biden mentioned Riley in his State of the Union speech in March after the Republican congresswoman from Georgia, Marjorie Taylor Greene, goaded him to “say her name”.

Afterwards, Riley’s father, Jason Riley, told NBC News that he wished her death had not become “such a political” matter. He added: “It’s incited a lot of people.”