Laken Riley murder suspect pleads not guilty in University of Georgia campus slaying


(ATHENS, Ga.) — The suspect accused of killing 22-year-old nursing student Laken Riley was arraigned on murder charges Friday in connection with the slaying on the University of Georgia campus.

An Athens-Clarke County judge entered a plea of not guilty for Jose Ibarra, 26, following his indictment earlier this month on malice murder and felony murder and other offenses. The judge said the trial in the case will likely be scheduled for the fall.

Ibarra did not speak and wore headphones during the arraignment. His attorney asked for 90 days to review the preliminary discovery. The state said they are awaiting cellphone reports and other scientific reports but will be ready for trial in the fall.

Riley’s family also sat in the courtroom for the arraignment.

Riley, a student at Augusta University, was found dead in a wooded area on the Athens campus on Feb. 22 after she didn’t return from a run. The indictment alleges that Ibarra killed her by “inflicting blunt force trauma to her head and by asphyxiating her” and seriously disfigured her head by striking her “multiple times” with a rock.

Additional charges in the 10-count indictment include aggravated battery, kidnapping with bodily injury, aggravated assault with intent to rape, obstructing or hindering a person making an emergency telephone call and tampering with evidence. The latter charge alleged that he “knowingly concealed” evidence — a jacket and gloves — involving the offense of malice murder.

He was also charged with a peeping tom offense. The indictment alleges that on the same day as Riley’s murder, he spied through the window of a different person who lived in an apartment on campus.

Ibarra was denied bond following his arrest on Feb. 23 and is being held at the Clarke County Jail.

Police have said they do not believe Ibarra — a migrant from Venezuela — knew Riley and that this was a “crime of opportunity.” Her death has become a rallying cry for immigration reform from many conservatives.

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