Laken Riley: Cause of death released for nursing student killed while jogging at UGA

Authorities on Tuesday confirmed the cause of death for Laken Hope Riley, the 22-year-old nursing student killed Thursday morning after going for a jog on campus of the University of Georgia, WSB-TV reported.

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The Athens-Clarke County Coroner’s Office told the news station that Riley died from blunt force trauma to the head. Last week, authorities announced that Jose Antonio Ibarra, 26, was arrested on murder, kidnapping and other charges in connection with her death, according to WSB.

Officials said a friend called UGA’s police department just after noon on Thursday after Riley failed to return from a morning run at the university’s intramural fields. About a half hour later, authorities found Riley’s body in the woods behind Lake Herrick.

According to records obtained by WSB, Ibarra is accused of kidnapping Riley between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Thursday. He allegedly prevented Riley from making a 911 call, dragged her from the intramural fields to a “secluded area” and concealed her death, the news station reported.

Ibarra is a Venezuelan national who entered the U.S. illegally in September 2022, according to WSB and Justice Department officials. He was paroled and released for further processing, immigration officials said.

His elder brother, 29-year-old Diego Ibarra, has since been arrested and charged with possessing a fraudulent green card, according to the Justice Department.

University officials said Riley was a student at UGA until last year, when she transferred to the nursing program at Augusta University’s campus in Athens. She was a member of Alpha Chi Omega and remained involved in the sorority after her transfer, according to WSB and UGA.

Riley’s death prompted officials to cancel classes. It came one day after another student died in UGA’s Brumby Hall, university officials said.

Students and community members gathered at the UGA campus on Monday to remember the pair.

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