Thousands of students show up at UGA to honor Laken Riley, who was murdered by illegal immigrant on campus

"She was a wonderful friend, sister, daughter who touched the lives of everyone around her."

Katie Daviscourt Seattle WA
On Monday, thousands of students gathered to honor the life of 22-year-old Laken Riley, who was allegedly murdered by an illegal immigrant last week, during a vigil at the University of Georgia Athens campus.

Riley, a nursing student at Augusta University, was found dead in the woods near UGA on Feb. 22 after going for a jog near campus. Authorities have arrested and charged Jose Antonio Ibarra, 26, for Riley's murder. Ibarra is an illegal immigrant from Venezuela.

UGA's Tate Plaza was flooded with thousands of mourning students and community members. Candles were held and tears were shed.

The school's newspaper reports that this was a joint vigil hosted by the Alpha Chi Omega sorority and Kappa Sigma Fraternity. Riley was a member of AXO, while another student being honored, Wyatt Banks, reportedly died by suicide on Feb. 21, the day before Riley's murder. Banks was a member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity.

"Not one more Dawg," said Dabney Duncan at the vigil, who is the president of the Panhellenic Council.

Riley studied at UGA until the spring of 2023, at which point she transferred to a nursing school. She was scheduled to graduate from Augusta University in 2025. She was said to be a high achiever and made the dean's list in the autumn of 2023.

According to an Instagram post the school prepared in Riley's honor, she received her honorary white coat in August 2023, signifying "humanism, compassion, and the start of her nurse's journey."

Riley's obituary said that she had a passion for helping others.

"Laken was an amazing daughter, sister, friend and overall person in general. Her love for the Lord was exemplified in every aspect of her life," the obituary said, according to the Red & Black school paper.

Greg Trevor, a university spokesperson, told the paper that Riley was "very well-liked" and was exceptionally "active in the community."

A GoFundMe page created in Riley's honor has received more than $165,000 in donations, vastly surpassing the initial goal of $35,000. The fundraiser was established, per the organizer's post, to help Riley's family with funeral costs and any additional expenses.

The GoFundMe also aims to establish the Laken Hope Riley Foundation with the objective of increasing women's safety and bringing attention to homicide.

"She was a sweet and compassionate soul whose life was sadly cut short on Thursday, February 22nd, 2024. No words can express the pain and heartache that Laken’s family and friends are experiencing," the fundraiser states. "She was a wonderful friend, sister, daughter, etc. who touched the lives of everyone around her. Her infectious smile and contagious laugh lit up every room she entered. Not only did she have a kind-hearted spirit, but she also excelled in academics."
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