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Man accused of killing nursing student Laken Riley pleads not guilty in Georgia court

Mayorkas: "Not informed" about Georgia suspect's prior arrests
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas: "We were not informed" about prior arrests of Georgia suspect 07:36

A man accused of killing a nursing student whose body was found on the University of Georgia campus pleaded not guilty Friday to murder and other charges in her death.

A grand jury in early May returned an indictment charging Jose Ibarra with murder, aggravated assault, kidnapping and other crimes in the February killing of Laken Hope Riley. The 10-count indictment accuses Ibarra of hitting the Augusta University College of Nursing student in the head, asphyxiating her and pulling up her clothing with the intent to rape her.

Laken Riley
Laken Riley, a nursing student at the University of Georgia, was murdered in February.  Augusta University

The killing immediately became a flashpoint in the national debate over immigration because Ibarra, who is from Venezuela, entered the U.S. illegally in 2022 and was allowed to stay to pursue his immigration case. Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, blamed Riley's death on President Joe Biden and his border policies.

Riley's death gave traction to a Georgia bill requiring jailers to check the immigration status of people in their custody and to apply to help enforce federal immigration laws. When he signed the bill, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, said it "became one of our top priorities following the senseless death of Laken Riley at the hands of someone in this country illegally who had already been arrested even after crossing the border."

Riley's body was found Feb. 22 near running trails after a friend told police she had not returned from a morning run, and police have said her killing appeared to be a random attack. Ibarra, 26, was arrested the next day and has been held in the Athens-Clarke County Jail without bond since then.

Judge H. Patrick Haggard said he's hoping for a trial in the fall.

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