Accused Killer of Georgia Nursing Student Is Illegal Immigrant ‘Unleashed Upon Our Country,’ Mike Johnson Says

The suspect in the murder of a Georgia nursing student is an illegal immigrant, according to House Speaker Mike Johnson, who called for tougher border security.
Accused Killer of Georgia Nursing Student Is Illegal Immigrant ‘Unleashed Upon Our Country,’ Mike Johnson Says
University of Georgia police along with Athens-Clarke County police, Georgia State Patrol, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) search the Cielo Azulyk apartment complex after executing a search warrant in Athens, Ga., on Feb. 23. 2024. (Joshua L. Jones/Athens Banner-Herald via AP)
Tom Ozimek

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) said that the accused killer of a Georgia nursing student is an illegal immigrant, while blaming President Joe Biden’s catch-and-release policies for the tragic loss of life.

Jose Antonio Ibarra, the suspect arrested by police in connection with the death of 22-year-old Laken Hope Riley, was on Friday confirmed by University of Georgia Police Chief Jeff Clark as a noncitizen of the United States.

While Mr. Clark was unable to confirm Mr. Ibarra’s immigration status, three unnamed sources from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) told Fox News that the suspect is a Venezuelan national who entered the United States illegally in September 2022 and was released.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) documents cited by NewsNation indicate Mr. Ibarra crossed unlawfully into El Paso, Texas, and was released into the county due to lack of detention space.

Neither ICE nor DHS confirmed Mr. Ibarra’s immigration status in response to an inquiry by The Epoch Times, but the House speaker took to social media to confirm that he is, in fact, an illegal immigrant.

“The brutal murderer who took the life of Laken was one of the millions of illegal aliens that the Biden Administration simply released and unleashed upon our country,” Mr. Johnson wrote in his post on X.

One of Many Lives Lost to ‘Border Catastrophe’

Mr. Johnson, who has been a vocal critic of the Biden administration’s border policies, called on President Biden to use his existing statutory authority to close the border.

“For Laken, and the countless many others lost to this border catastrophe, House Republicans will continue to fight tooth and nail for a return to law and order,” he wrote.

Other Republican lawmakers took to social media to express their outrage over the slaying—and the fact that the suspected perpetrator is an illegal immigrant.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, penned a letter to President Biden, demanding that the White House provide information on Mr. Ibarra’s immigration status and the circumstances around his entry into the United States.

Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Andrew Clyde, both Georgia Republicans, accused the Biden administration of being complicit in the slaying, which they both attributed to “illegal alien” Mr. Ibarra.

The body of Ms. Riley, a 22-year-old Augusta University College of Nursing student, was found on Thursday near running trails.

Police said Mr. Ibarra faces charges including malice murder, felony murder, aggravated battery, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, kidnapping, hindering a 911 call, and concealing the death of another.

Mr. Ibarra was reportedly arrested in New York for endangering a 5-year-old child several months before he allegedly killed Ms. Riley, per NewsNation.

Jose Antonio Ibarra, a suspect in the murder of a Georgia nursing student, is seen in an undated police mugshot. (Clarke County Sheriff's Office)
Jose Antonio Ibarra, a suspect in the murder of a Georgia nursing student, is seen in an undated police mugshot. (Clarke County Sheriff's Office)
Mr. Ibarra’s older brother, Diego Ibarra, is in police custody for allegedly having a fraudulent green card, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia told The New York Post.

‘Crime of Opportunity’

During a Friday evening news conference, the University of Georgia police chief said that video from campus security and other technology led police to Mr. Ibarra, who lived in one of the apartments in a complex not far from where Ms. Riley’s body was found.

Mr. Clark said that the evidence gathered in the case is robust, adding that investigators believe it was a “solo act” by Mr. Ibarra, who apparently had no relationship to the victim.

“This was a crime of opportunity where he saw an individual, and bad things happened,” Mr. Clark said.

Ms. Riley’s body was discovered Thursday afternoon after a friend told police she had not returned from a morning run.

Laken Hope Riley. (Augusta University via AP)
Laken Hope Riley. (Augusta University via AP)
Officers launched a search and found her body in a forested area near Lake Herrick, an area with trails that are often used by runners and walkers, according to a statement from the University of Georgia Police Department.

“The individual was unconscious and not breathing, and had visible injuries,” the statement said. “Emergency medical responders determined that the individual was deceased upon their arrival.”

During the press conference, Mr. Clark said that the cause of death was blunt force trauma, but he did not elaborate.

Ms. Riley studied at the University of Georgia through the spring of 2023 before transferring to Augusta University’s College of Nursing, according to a statement from the University of Georgia.

Ms. Riley’s sister, Lauren Phillips, paid tribute to her in an Instagram post on Friday, calling her “the best sister and my built in best friend from the very first second.”

“This isn’t fair and I will never understand it but I know you are in heaven with the man you loved most right now,” Ms. Phillips wrote. “I’m not sure how I’m going to do this but it’s all going to be for you from now on. I cannot wait to give you the biggest hug someday. I will miss and love you forever Laken.”

The University of Georgia, which has 41,000 students, mostly in Athens, canceled classes Friday.

Reuters contributed to this report.