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Illegal immigrant accused of murdering Laken Riley pleads not guilty to charges

The prosecution is seeking a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

José Ibarra

(Youtube / Atlanta News First )

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Jose Ibarra, the illegal immigrant accused of murdering Laken Riley, a college student in Georgia, pleaded not guilty during an arraignment hearing.

The 26-year-old Venezuelan man with irregular immigration status appeared Friday in Athens-Clarke County Superior Court for the death of Riley, a 22-year-old nursing student who was allegedly attacked while jogging on trails on the campus of the University of Georgia (UGA) in Athens.

Ibarra faces charges of malice murder, three counts of felony murder, kidnapping with bodily injury, aggravated assault with intent to rape, aggravated assault, obstructing or hindering a person making an emergency telephone call, tampering with evidence and peeping.

During the hearing, Riley’s mother, Allyson Phillips, broke down in tears as she heard the details of the case. According to the indictment, on the same day of the murder, Ibarra went to UGA’s ‘University Village “S” Housing Building,’ where he ‘peeped through a window’ at a university staff member. Ibarra allegedly inflicted blunt force trauma to Riley’s head by repeatedly striking her with a rock and then choking her.

One evidence tampering charge is based on the allegation that Ibarra disposed of his jacket and gloves to conceal the crime.

Ibarra resided in an apartment building located on the edge of the campus park, near the trail where Riley ran. According to Jeffrey Clark, UGA’s chief of police, the murder was a ‘crime of opportunity.’ The scenic trail that Riley ran at the time of her murder was easily accessible from where Ibarra resided.

What the prosecution seeks

According to documents obtained by Fox 5, the District Attorney for the Western Judicial Circuit is seeking a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Ibarra entered the country illegally

The Venezuelan entered the United States illegally through El Paso, Texas, in September 2022 and was released on parole, ICE and DHS sources told Fox News.

The case has shocked the campus community and heightened concerns about campus safety and immigration policies. Riley’s family is seeking justice as the judicial process moves toward a trial scheduled for August.