Illegal migrant from Venezuela is arrested for murder of UGA nursing student Laken Riley: Was released from CBP custody because of overcrowding

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Written By Maya Cantina
  • Jose Antonio Ibarra, 26, has been identified and charged for allegedly murdering nursing student Laken Riley, 22, at the University of Georgia in Athens
  • Officials have confirmed that Ibarra is not a US citizen and did not know or have any kind of relationship with Riley
  • UGA Police Chief Jeffrey Clark called the murder a ‘crime of opportunity’ and said evidence shows that the accused acted alone

An illegal immigrant freed because of lack of detention space is now accused of murdering a 22 year-old University of Georgia student after she went for a run. 

Jose Antonio Ibarra was arrested for the murder of Laken Riley in Athens – a sanctuary city – on Friday and is now being held at the Clarke County Jail.

NewsNation reporter Ali Bradley said Ibarra, 26, is originally from Venezuela and crossed into El Paso, Texas, in September 2022.

He was released into the United States by Customs and Border Patrol because the worsening migrant crisis means they have insufficient facilities to hold all border crossers that they intercept.  Cops don’t believe Ibarra knew his victim. 

Riley, 22, was found dead Thursday afternoon after her roommate reported her missing, saying she had not returned from her jog. 

Ibarra has been charged with malice murder, felony murder, aggravated battery, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, kidnapping, hindering a 911 call, and concealing the death of another. 

Jose Antonio Ibarra, 26, has been identified and charged for allegedly murdering nursing student Laken Riley, 22, at the University of Georgia in Athens

Riley, 22, was found dead Thursday afternoon after her roommate reported her missing, saying she had not returned from her jog

 Riley, 22, was found dead Thursday afternoon after her roommate reported her missing, saying she had not returned from her jog

He has been charged with malice murder, felony murder, aggravated battery, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, kidnapping, hindering a 911 call, and concealing the death of another

He has been charged with malice murder, felony murder, aggravated battery, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, kidnapping, hindering a 911 call, and concealing the death of another 

UGA Police Chief Jeffrey Clark told reporters at a press conference tonight that officers have searched Ibarra’s apartment in Athens and evidence shows that he acted alone. 

‘He did not know her at all. I think this is a crime of opportunity where he saw an individual and bad things happened,’ Clark said. 

‘The evidence is robust. It is supported by key input by the community, physical evidence and expert police work. Importantly, we were assisted by video footage from our campus security cameras network.’

He advised there was no clear history of violence for the accused and his criminal history is not extensive. 

According to Fox5, the accused is expected to be booked at the Clarke County Jail.

UGA Police Chief Jeffrey Clark told reporters at a press conference tonight that officers have searched Ibarra's apartment in Athens and evidence shows that he acted alone

UGA Police Chief Jeffrey Clark told reporters at a press conference tonight that officers have searched Ibarra’s apartment in Athens and evidence shows that he acted alone

Officials confirmed that Ibarra is not a US citizen and did not know or have any kind of relationship with Riley

Officials confirmed that Ibarra is not a US citizen and did not know or have any kind of relationship with Riley

Officials have confirmed that Ibarra is not a US citizen and did not know or have any kind of relationship with Riley

Officials have confirmed that Ibarra is not a US citizen and did not know or have any kind of relationship with Riley 

Riley is seen on a picture posted last month on her Facebook account

Riley is seen on a picture posted last month on her Facebook account 

The University of Georgia said Riley graduated from the school in 2023, and went on to enroll at Augusta University’s nursing program, which has a campus in Athens.

UGA has has urged students to travel ‘in groups’ and has canceled classes after Riley was found dead with ‘visible injuries’ in a wooded area.

Kelly Girtz, the mayor of Athens-Clarke County, said he joined the community in ‘deep sadness over today’s murder’ and said the city was working with authorities to bring the investigation to a ‘rapid conclusion’. 

Officers searching the area found the woman’s body in a forested area behind Lake Herrick. 

The University of Georgia said Riley graduated from the school in 2023, and went on to enroll at Augusta University's nursing program, which has a campus in Athens

The University of Georgia said Riley graduated from the school in 2023, and went on to enroll at Augusta University’s nursing program, which has a campus in Athens 

Police search a wooded area at the University of Georgia after the shock discovery Thursday

Police search a wooded area at the University of Georgia after the shock discovery Thursday

That area is across a busy road from a large dorm and dining hall complex on what’s commonly called ‘East Campus.’ Most of the students in those dorms are freshmen.

‘The past 24 hours have been a traumatic time for our university,’ the University of Georgia said in a statement online, acknowledging the news came just hours after the unrelated ‘sudden death’ of another student the previous night.

 ‘And as we continue to mourn that tragic loss of life, today’s devastating news will uniquely test the resolve of our campus community, particularly our students.’

‘We have been fully briefed on this terrible situation,’ the statement continued. ‘Foul play is suspected, and we are already receiving support from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Athens-Clarke County Police Department to investigate this crime. 

‘We want to assure you that the safety and welfare of our campus community is our top concern. 

‘If you think you have any information related to this incident, we urge you to contact the UGA Police Department immediately at 706-542-2200. 

‘In addition, all students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to download and use the UGA Safe app, which offers several important safety features, including emergency notification alerts and the ability to share location in real-time with the police, among others. 

‘We also recommend that you travel in groups when possible and be aware of your surroundings.’

‘We are announcing that classes on the Athens campus are cancelled after 5:30 p.m. this evening, February 22. They will remain cancelled tomorrow. We will resume classes on Monday, February 26,’ they added. 

UGA has has urged students to travel 'in groups' and has canceled classes after Riley was found dead with 'visible injuries' in a wooded area. Riley is seen with her parents

UGA has has urged students to travel ‘in groups’ and has canceled classes after Riley was found dead with ‘visible injuries’ in a wooded area. Riley is seen with her parents

Several law enforcement agencies were seeing swarming an apartment complex near the forested area where Riley's body was found

Several law enforcement agencies were seeing swarming an apartment complex near the forested area where Riley’s body was found

The news of the murder came on the same day House Speaker Mike Johnson ripped into President Joe Biden for finally floating executive action to crack down on illegal immigration after millions of migrants flooded into the US since he took office. 

Since Biden took office in 2021, over 7.2 million migrants have entered the U.S. through the southern border.

That’s more people than the population of 36 states. Arizona, for example, had 7.1 million residents according to the 2020 census.

After taking office, President Biden immediately canceled various Trump-era border initiatives, including the ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy that required migrants claiming asylum to stay in Mexico until their hearing court date in the U.S. 

Biden also stopped construction of the U.S.-Mexico border within days of taking office.

Speaker Mike Johnson slammed Biden for saying he needed Republicans to fix the border

Speaker Mike Johnson slammed Biden for saying he needed Republicans to fix the border

President Joe Biden said he has done everything he can to fix the border crisis, but now the White House is mulling a Trump-like executive action to crack down in migration

President Joe Biden said he has done everything he can to fix the border crisis, but now the White House is mulling a Trump-like executive action to crack down in migration

Since Biden took office in 2021, over 7.2 million migrants have entered the U.S. through the southern border

Since Biden took office in 2021, over 7.2 million migrants have entered the U.S. through the southern border

But now, the 81-year-old President is reportedly mulling whether to take executive action on the border as polling indicates it is a top issue for voters and lawmakers rejected a negotiated border bill earlier this month.

He is looking into using the Immigration and Nationality Act, which gives a president broad leeway to block entry of certain immigrants, to shut down the border if more than 8,500 try to cross in one day.

The top GOP leader is accusing the president of waiting until the election year to take action, which he should have done months ago. Biden previously said he could not provide border security without GOP support in Congress. 

‘Americans have lost faith in this President and won’t be fooled by election year gimmicks that don’t actually secure the border,’ Speaker Mike Johnson wrote in a statement obtained by DailyMail.com.

‘Nor will they forget that the President created this catastrophe and, until now, has refused to use his executive power to fix it.’ 

‘These reports also underscore just how brazenly and intentionally President Biden misled the public when he claimed he had done everything in his power to secure the border,’ Johnson continued.

The speaker wants Biden to reinstitute the ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy and end the administration’s ‘abuse’ of the parole system.

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