Migrant suspect in murder of UGA nursing student crossed border in Texas, was arrested and released in NYC

He was arrested on child endangerment charges, released, and the record was sealed.


The illegal immigrant who is accused of killing University of Georgia nursing student Laken Riley entered the US in September with his wife and 5-year-old son. They were bussed to New York City after entering the country illegally. He was arrested on child endangerment charges, released, and the record was sealed.

Jose Antonio Ibarra's wife, Layling Franco, told the New York Post that they came to the US from Venezuela with her 5-year-old son, and entered through El Paso, Texas. The couple apparently married in order to join their asylum cases. 

According to police, Ibarra was arrested last August in Queens for driving with the 5-year-old child on the back of a gas-powered moped without a helmet or restraints. Ibarra was reportedly working for delivery services. After the incident, he moved to Georgia to live with his brother Diego and he and his wife separated. Riley was killed in Georgia earlier this week.

Franco told the Post that she found out about Ibarra's arrest from her brother-in-law on Friday. Ibarra’s brother was arrested for drunk driving in September and was working as a dishwasher at UGA under a fake green card.

"We got married so we could join our asylum cases,” Franco said of their relationship. "He was the person I thought I could see through. We’ve known each other our entire lives."

Franco claimed that Ibarra "wasn't aggressive, none of that." She noted, "We had problems as a couple but our problems weren’t physical. We wouldn’t punch but we’d raise our voices."

“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.”

Riley's body was found in a wooded area of the University of Georgia campus in Athens on Thursday. UGA police chief Jeffrey Clark said that there is a possibility her murder was a "crime of opportunity."

"He did not know her at all. I think this is a crime of opportunity where he saw an individual and bad things happened," Clark said. "The evidence is robust. It is supported by key input from the community, physical evidence, and expert police work. Importantly, we were assisted by video footage from our campus security cameras network."

Ibarra was booked into the Clarke County Jail on Friday, and charged with malice murder, felony murder, aggravated battery, and other criminal violations including kidnapping.

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