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Authorities Confirm Suspect in Laken Riley's Murder is Illegal Alien

Jose Antonio Ibarra was arrested and released in September 2022 after illegal entry into the country

Authorities Confirm Suspect in Laken Riley's Murder is Illegal Alien

Immigrations and Customs Enforcement confirmed the man arrested in connection with the death of a nursing student in Georgia is in the United States illegally.

Jose Antonio Ibarra, 26, was taken into custody on Feb. 23 – the day after Laken Riley was reported missing after going for a run on the campus of the University of Georgia. Her body was found in a wooded area near Lake Herrick with visible injuries shortly after law enforcement began searching for her. 

“This was a crime of opportunity where he saw an individual, and bad things happened,” said University of Georgia Police Chief Jeff Clark at a press conference, according to USA Today.

Ibarra is a native of Venezuela and reportedly did not know Riley. 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 person. He was identified in campus security videos and through other technology. 

ICE confirmed that Ibarra is not a U.S. citizen and does not have a legal immigration status. Ibarra was arrested on Sept. 8, 2022 after illegally entering the country near El Paso, Texas but was released pending a review of this case. He was subsequently arrested on Sept. 14, 2023 in New York and charged with a motor vehicle license violation and acting in a manner to injure a child less than 17.

ICE has requested to detain Ibarra if and when he's released from criminal custody so it can seek his deportation,” states CBS News.

His 29-year-old brother, Diego Ibarra, is in police custody and is facing federal charges for possession of a fraudulent green card, reports CNN. He could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.

Riley is believed to have died from blunt force trauma. Her family released a statement on Feb. 24, describing the 22-year-old as “an amazing daughter, sister, friend and overall person.”

“Her love for the Lord was exemplified in every aspect of her life. She will be missed every day, but we promise to honor her life moving forward in a very big way," continued the statement, per 11Alive. "During this most difficult time, we ask that you respect our privacy, and provide us the time and space necessary to grieve our daughter’s life that was tragically cut short."

Riley’s death has drawn comparisons to the murders of Mollie Tibbets and Katie Steinle. Tibbetts was a student at the University of Iowa who disappeared while jogging on July 18, 2018. Her body was found five weeks later in a cornfield and Cristhian Rivera, a 24-year-old illegal alien, was arrested in connection to the killing. 

Steinle was shot while walking along San Francisco’s Pier 14 with her father on July 4, 2015. Jose Inez Garcia-Zarate, who had been deported five times, admitted to accidentally firing the gun. He was acquitted of homicide in 2017.

Editor's Note: The date, Feb. 24, that was affixed to ICE's confirmation that Ibarra is not a U.S. citizen has been removed. A Feb. 27 document has been hyperlinked to the sentence for further reference. 

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