UGA campus murder: Hundreds attend vigil for Laken Riley, Wyatt Banks

A growing memorial has been established at Lake Herrick, marking the location where Laken Riley's body was discovered last Thursday. Riley, who failed to return home after her morning run that day, has left the University of Georgia campus in a state of mourning.

Although classes were canceled on Friday, they resumed Monday. While some students chose to return home for the weekend, others remained on campus. The prevailing sentiment among the student body is one of surrealism, and a somber mood has settled across the university as academic activities resume. Many students express heightened caution in their movements around campus in the wake of the incident.

Riley's sorority – Alpha Chi Omega – scheduled a vigil in her honor at Tate Plaza Monday afternoon. Students and faculty gathered to remember her and pay their respects.

Laken Riley vigil held at UGA

It was a very heavy day on the UGA campus Monday as classes resumed following the death of a 22-year-old nursing student on campus last Thursday.

UGA students gathered for a vigil on campus to remember two students who lost their lives the week before.

Augusta University nursing student Laken Riley went out for a run near the Intramural Fields on UGA's campus Thursday morning, but never made it back home.

The coroner's office said she died of blunt force trauma to the head.

A vigil was held to remember Riley, as well as another UGA student who died from suicide last week.

"It's kind of surreal," Junior Eliana Babayeuskaya said.

"I definitely am watching my back. I'm a lot more careful," she added.

Hundreds gathered at Tate Plaza Monday to support Riley's sorority sisters from Alpha Chi Omega, as well as her fellow nursing students from the Augusta University College of Nursing. Each of them are still grieving her sudden death.

Image 1 of 4

UGA students gathered for a vigil on campus to remember two students who lost their lives the week before.

"It's so obvious to me why it feels so dark right now, and that's because we've lost one of the brightest lights there's ever been," UGA Alpha Chi Omega President Chloe Mullis said.

"Although the flowers in our house will fade, the visitors will slow, and we will begin classes again, our hearts will always ache without Laken who was an integral part of our sisterhood," she added.

Members of Kappa Sigma also spoke about their brother, Wyatt Banks, who died by suicide just a day before Riley was killed.

"If you are quietly suffering, there is always someone you can find to listen or help," Nick Nichols said.

"Be kind. Catch up with your friends and strive to be the type of person that Laken was, where a sister shared even if you haven't seen her in a while, it was like no time had passed at all," Mullis added.

A funeral for Riley will take place March 1. 

Kappa Sigma member Wyatt Banks remembered at UGA vigil

Additionally, student Wyatt Banks was remembered by his fraternity – Kappa Sigma – during Monday afternoon's vigil.

Banks reportedly killed himself on campus shortly before the death of Riley.

A GoFundMe has also been established for Banks, who was a metro Atlanta native. The organizers of the GoFundMe say they plan to use the money to raise awareness towards mental health and suicide. 


Alpha Chi Omega remembers tragedy prior to death of member Laken Riley

Riley's death isn't the first tragic death that has impacted Alpha Chi Omega. 

Two members of Alpha Chi Omega lost their lives in 2016 in a car crash that killed four UGA students and injured one. 

On April 27, 2016, Kayla Canedo, Brittany Feldman, Christina Semeria and Halle Scott died in an off-campus crash. The driver, Agnes Kim, survived but was critically injured. 

The young women were in a white Toyota Camry, driving northbound on Greensboro Highway just outside Athens, when the car, for unknown reasons, went into the southbound lanes and struck a blue Chevrolet Cobalt. Investigators ruled out alcohol and drugs and the car's data didn't show any evidence the car was speeding.

Canedo and Semeria were members of Alpha Chi Omega and Feldman was a member of Pi Beta Phi.