Who is Jose Antonio Ibarra? Laken Riley's killer ‘wasn’t aggressive,’ says wife - Hindustan Times
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Who is Jose Antonio Ibarra? Laken Riley's killer ‘wasn’t aggressive,’ says wife

BySumanti Sen
Feb 25, 2024 10:21 AM IST

Jose Antonio Ibarra crossed the border in Texas last year, and was initially sent to a processing facility before being released and put on a bus to NYC

A suspect who was recently taken into custody for the murder of Georgia nursing student Laken Hope Riley, 22, has been identified as 26-year-old Jose Antonio Ibarra, an illegal immigrant. Riley was found dead near a lake on the University of Georgia’s campus in Athens last week with “visible injuries,” according to UGA Police Chief Jeff Clark. Riley, a nursing student at Augusta University, was found after a friend reported that she went for a run and failed to return.

A suspect who was recently taken into custody for the murder of Georgia nursing student Laken Hope Riley (R), 22, has been identified as 26-year-old Jose Antonio Ibarra (L), an illegal immigrant (GoFundMe, Jose Ibarra/Facebook)
A suspect who was recently taken into custody for the murder of Georgia nursing student Laken Hope Riley (R), 22, has been identified as 26-year-old Jose Antonio Ibarra (L), an illegal immigrant (GoFundMe, Jose Ibarra/Facebook)

“This was a very isolated incident,” Clark said at the Friday news conference, according to CNN. “We haven’t had a homicide at the University of Georgia in almost 30 years.” Video footage from campus security cameras reportedly led police to the suspect, as did physical evidence and important input from the community.

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Ibarra was arrested on Friday, February 23, and charged with malice and felony murder, aggravated battery, kidnapping, concealing the death of another and other charges. Police said the incident was a “crime of opportunity.”

Who is Jose Antonio Ibarra?

Ibarra crossed the border in Texas on September 8 in 2023. He was initially sent to a processing facility before being released and put on a bus to New York City. His wife, Layling Franco, told New York Post that he was busted in New York City again, and then soon released. 

Ibarra, Franco of Venezuela and her son, 5, entered El Paso together. The family was sent to New York City on September 15. 

Back in August, Ibarra was arrested for endangering the welfare of a child. He was caught riding a gas-powered moped with Franco’s son on the back in Queens. The child had been given no head protection or restraint, police sources said. At the time, Ibarra was working for DoorDash, Uber Eats and a local restaurant. However, the case was later sealed.

Franco and Ibarra split by November, following which he went to live with his brother Diego in Georgia. “Yesterday when [Jose] was arrested, my brother-in-law called me early to say he’d been arrested,” Franco, 23, said. 

Franco claimed Ibarra was generally a calm person. “We got married so we could join our asylum cases,” she  said. “He was the person I thought I could see through. We’ve known each other our entire lives.”

She added, “He wasn’t aggressive, none of that. We had problems as a couple but our problems weren’t physical. We wouldn’t punch but we’d raise our voices.” Franco said Ibarra left New York “because he wanted to get a better job in Georgia.”

“I want to talk to [Jose],” she said. “I have a lot of faith that this wasn’t him, that there was a misunderstanding somewhere. But if he did, he has to pay for what he did, truly.”

In December last year, Ibarra went back to New York, for immigration court, a 32-year-old relative said. “Yesterday when we found out about what happened, and about Jose, it went over really badly, because it seemed like that girl was really ahead of things,” the relative said of Riley.

According to Clark, Ibarra does not have an “extensive” criminal history. 

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