DA not seeking death penalty for accused Laken Riley killer Jose Ibarra

The man accused of killing nursing student Laken Riley on the University of Georgia campus has pleaded not guilty to her murder.

Jose Ibarra appeared in court in Clarke County on Friday to enter his plea.

Following the plea, lawyers for the prosecution and defense said they are both working on gathering information and will provide a status update in August.

According to new 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 was indicted on 10 charges by a grand jury on May 8. Nine of the charges are felonies, including malice murder, three felony murder charges, kidnapping, aggravated assault with intent to rape, aggravated battery, tampering with evidence, and peeping tom. The remaining charge of interfering with a call for emergency help is a misdemeanor.

Court records obtained in March indicated that Ibarra was exercising his right to a speedy trial and asked for a jury trial at that time. His defense team also asked for all evidence and documents pertaining to his case to be turned over to them.


What Happened to Laken Riley?

Riley was brutally murdered during her morning run on Feb. 22. Her body was found by police shortly after she was reported missing by a friend in a wooded area near Lake Herrick and UGA's intramural fields.

Ibarra, originally from Venezuela, entered the country illegally in 2022 and was living in Athens. He was charged with malice murder, felony murder, aggravated battery, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, kidnapping, hindering a 911 call, and concealing the death of another.

An autopsy showed Riley died from blunt force trauma to the head.

Laken Riley was killed by a man who authorities say was in the country illegally.

Arrest Warrant Outlines UGA Murder

According to the warrants, Riley was killed between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Feb. 22. The warrants say Ibarra "physically" prevented Riley from making or completing a 911 call and used an "object" to cause great bodily harm, "disfiguring her skull." The warrants also indicate he dragged her from the intramural fields to a secluded area and concealed her death.

It remains unknown why Riley was killed. Bond was denied to Ibarra during his first court appearance on Feb. 24.

During the search for Riley's killer, Jose Ibarra's brother, 29-year-old Diego Ibarra, was also arrested. It was discovered that Diego Ibarra was in possession of a fraudulent green card.

Laken Riley Act

Riley's death inspired the Laken Riley Act, which would require federal officials to apprehend and detain undocumented immigrants who commit crimes such as burglary, shoplifting, or larceny until these individuals are removed from the United States.

The bill cleared the House in early March with the support of every Republican and 37 Democrats. However, it hasn't received as much support from Democrats in the upper chamber.