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An Athen’s Tragedy

Augusta University Junior Laken Riley’s Passing

Sadly, yet another tragedy struck, leaving family, friends and students at the University of Georgia (UGA) shocked and devastated.

On Thursday, Feb. 22, 22-year-old Augusta University junior Laken Riley went jogging that morning by UGA’s intramural fields and never returned. According to UGA’s police chief Jeffrey L. Clark, authorities received a call around noon on Thursday about the matter, and investigators found Riley’s body around 12:38 p.m. in an area behind a nearby lake on campus.

The suspect, 26-year-old Jose Antonio Ibarra was arrested on Friday, Feb. 23, and was charged with malice murder, felony murder, aggravated battery, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, kidnapping, hindering a 911 call and concealing the death of another, according to Clark. Police used footage from the campus security cameras as well as physical evidence to tie the murder back to Ibarra. Although Ibarra is a resident of Athens, he is not a US citizen and there was no indication that the two individuals knew each other. In addition to this, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) stated that Ibarra has a prior criminal history and was arrested for illegally crossing into the United States back in 2022, but was shortly released. 

Faculty members and students of UGA were deeply frightened and heartbroken about the murder and spoke out for Riley. 

"Laken showed devotion with every aspect of her life," president of the University of Georgia chapter of Alpha Chi Omega Chloe Mullis said. "Doing things halfway just wasn't an option. We lost one of the brightest lights that has ever been."

Before Riley’s enrollment to Augusta University College of Nursing, where she had gone to school, she previously attended UGA until 2023, according to UGA spokesperson Cole Sosebee. 

This heart-wrenching casualty has affected the lives of many, including those here at Maclay School.  

“Whenever I first heard about this tragedy, my heart sunk, and it was hard to process that this happened,” junior Kate Reichelderfer said. “I was scared for my sister's safety but was thankful that class was canceled the next day and that she was able to get out of town for the weekend. It does not change my mind about the school considering that something like that hasn't happened in decades, but I am certainly keeping those in my heart who are mourning for such a tragic loss.”

Although shaken, students and staff members of UGA are joining together to grieve for the loss of Riley. Prospective students remain confident in the university and trust the security that is on campus. 

“Immediately after I found out about the recent UGA tragedies, I felt concerned for my friends who attend the university. Not only did it scare the students, but also weighed heavily on their hearts, considering they lost two of their peers,” senior Copeland Frazee said. “The school community has done a great job coming together to celebrate the lives of both students, and I recently heard from one of my friends that they are installing more security measures on campus. As an accepted student, the response from the school shows what a good student and governing body there is at UGA.”


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Andy Poll

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