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NY Post
New York Post
24 Feb 2024

NextImg:Laken Riley’s suspected killer Jose Ibarra illegally entered US in 2022 — and was cut loose due to lack of detention space: report

The man accused of killing Georgia nursing student Laken Riley illegally entered the US in 2022 — and was cut loose when there was no space for him in a detention center, according to a report.

Jose Antonio Ibarra, 26, who was arrested Friday in connection to the murder of the 22-year-old Augusta University student, crossed into El Paso, Texas, from Venezuela in September 2022, NewsNation reported Saturday, citing Department of Homeland Security sources.

He had been released due to a lack of detention space, the sources added.

Months before Ibarra allegedly killed Riley, he was apparently arrested in New York for endangering a child, according to NewsNation.

Police sources in New York confirmed a man by the same name and age as the Georgia suspect was arrested in the Big Apple last year after allegedly endangering the welfare of a 5-year-old.

Detectives launched a homicide investigation and filed murder charges against Ibarra, who had no known connection to Riley.

Riley’s body was found with “visible injuries” on a trail by Lake Herrick on the nearby University of Georgia campus Thursday, after a friend became worried when she didn’t return from her morning run.

Ibarra “did not know her at all. I think this is a crime of opportunity where he saw an individual and bad things happened,” UGA Police Chief Jeffrey Clark said Friday night.

Riley was as serious and disciplined about her daily running as she was about her career in nursing, her roommate said.

The 22-year-old loved to run and she also loved helping others, her friend and former roommate Bianca Tiller, 21, told Fox News.

Tiller and Riley were roommates during their freshman year at the University of Georgia.

Riley recalled that Tiller was strict about her regular morning runs and always tracked them on her Apple watch.

Laken Riley, 22, found dead on a jogging trail near a Georgia college campus Thursday, was an avid runner who tracked her daily jogs on her Apple watch, her friend said. Facebook / Laken Riley

“She would go on runs every single day, even when we were freshmen,” Tiller said. “Not a day would go by where she wouldn’t go on her runs, and if she missed a day, which was very rare, she would just get so hard on herself about it.”

Riley worked in a nursing home prior to starting her studies in nursing and liked helping people, her former roommate said. Facebook / Laken Riley

Riley believed the trails she ran on along Lake Herrick were safe, Tiller said, adding that many students and local residents walk and jog there.

“The first thing that really shocked me was that it was in the middle of the day or the morning. It wasn’t like she was running at nighttime,” Tiller said. “For it to happen during the day in such a populated area, on a warm day where you would expect a lot of people to be outside, is just really shocking and didn’t really make sense.”

Riley was exceptionally kind, said Tiller, who added she did not know the victim to have any enemies.

“She would always be there for everybody,” Tiller said. “And she would just really bring everybody together and friendships together. I’ve met so many people through her, and she was just the kindest person. Like, nobody had anything terrible or even remotely bad to say about her.”

The 26-year-old suspect in Riley’s murder, Jose Antonio Ibarra, had no known connection to the victim and is not a U.S. citizen.  Ibarra is a Venezuelan national who illegally crossed the southern border into El Paso, Texas in September 2022. He was released from DHS custody over a lack of detention space Clarke County Sheriff’s Office

After three years at the University of Georgia, Riley entered a nursing program at Augusta University’s Athens campus, which is close to UGA.

“She’s been wanting [to be a nurse] for a really long time,” Tiller said. “She was studying biology when she was at UGA.”

Riley worked at a nursing home prior to starting college and often spoke about her time there, Tiller said.

“No matter how little the pay was and how difficult the work was, she just really liked helping people,” Tiller said.