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Georgia governor blames border crisis for Augusta student murder

Athens-Clarke County police on the University of Georgia in Athens campus Athens Banner-Herald via Associated Press/Photo by Joshua L. Jones

Georgia governor blames border crisis for Augusta student murder

Gov. Brian Kemp is calling for justice in the murder of 22-year-old Augusta University nursing student Laken Riley. Authorities found her body on a running trail on the University of Georgia in Athens campus last Thursday. Jose Antonio Ibarra, 26, was arrested as a suspect on Friday. Kemp spoke to the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce on Monday, blaming Riley’s death on “an unwillingness by this White House to secure the southern border.” Ibarra was reportedly given temporary permission to stay in the United States after being captured by the U.S. Border Patrol in 2022 during a surge of immigrant crossings.

What kind of evidence do they have to accuse Ibarra? Chief of police at UGA Jeffrey Clark said Ibarra is facing several charges, including felony murder and kidnapping. Clark described the evidence linking Ibarra to the crime as “robust” and includes “input from the community, physical evidence, and expert policework.” He specifically referred to campus security cameras as “vital” to the investigation. Clark further confirmed that Ibarra did not know Riley, describing the attack as “a crime of opportunity.”

How is the campus reacting to the murder? UGA students returned to class on Monday after the discovery of Riley’s body prompted administrators to cancel courses through the end of last week. Students are now circulating a petition to install emergency lights around the area where Riley’s body was found. Clark described the incident as “very isolated,” noting Riley’s death was the first homicide at UGA in “almost 30 years.” A visitation and funeral for Riley are scheduled for Friday. A GoFundMe page had raised over $120,000 by Monday afternoon to establish a scholarship in Riley’s name and raise homicide awareness.

Dig deeper: Read Lauren Dunn’s report in Schooled on Christians offering comfort after four students were murdered at the University of Idaho.

Christina Grube

Christina Grube is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute.

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