Illegal Immigrant Accused Of Murdering Laken Riley Pleads Not Guilty

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Jason Hopkins Immigration Reporter
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The man accused of killing Georgia nursing student Laken Riley pled not guilty during an arraignment hearing on Friday.

Jose Ibarra, a Venezuelan national living unlawfully in the United States, pled not guilty to charges that he killed Riley during his arraignment hearing, according to the latest Athens-Clarke County court filings. The not guilty plea now means the case will head to trial. (RELATED: Soros-Backed DA’s Office Gave Free Consultations To Migrants Charged With Violent Crimes, Docs Show)

The news is the latest development in a murder case that has sparked a national debate over illegal immigration in the country. Ibarra is charged with malice murder, three counts of felony murder, kidnapping, aggravated assault, aggravated battery, tampering with evidence and interfering with a 911 call for help, Superior Court of Clarke County records confirmed. The 26-year-old illegal immigrant was also handed down a “peeping Tom” charge related to his activities around the UGA campus on the day of the murder.

Riley, a nursing student at the time, was abducted and murdered on February 22 while jogging around the UGA campus. The coroner confirmed that the 22-year-old died from blunt force trauma to the skull.

A photograph of murdered nursing student Laken Hope Riley. Screenshot/Instagram

Ibarra was subsequently arrested for her murder, an incident which authorities have described as a crime of opportunity.

Following news of the killing, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials confirmed that Ibarra had unlawfully entered the U.S. He crossed into the U.S. through the southern border near El Paso, Texas, in September 2022 and was later released into the country on parole, apparently due to federal immigration authorities lacking detention space at the time.

Riley’s killing sparked a national debate on the ongoing illegal immigration crisis and its consequences, with mention of it by President Joe Biden during the State of the Union address and the launch of a local campaign to recall the mayor of Athens, Georgia, the town where the murder took place.

Several months later, Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed House Bill 1105 into law, requiring sheriffs in the state to cooperate with federal immigration authorities or risk losing government funding.

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