Feb 26, 2024 - News

Laken Riley: Slain Georgia student remembered at vigil

Students gather at Tate Plaza on Feb. 26 to pay tribute to a UGA student who committed suicide and Laken Riley, who was killed last week. Photo: Nell Carroll/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Students gather at Tate Plaza on Feb. 26 to pay tribute to Laken Riley, who was killed last week, along with Wyatt Banks, who died one day before. Photo: Nell Carroll/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

UGA students returned to class on Monday for the first time following the killing last week on campus of 22-year-old Laken Riley.

Riley, a Marietta native, was previously enrolled as a nursing student at UGA before transferring to Augusta University's Athens campus, according to her obituary.

  • When she wasn't working as a nanny for two young children, she was involved with her church in Woodstock, and she attended mission trips.
  • "Her smile was extremely infectious and spread to others everywhere she went," her obituary reads.
lakin riley
Laken Riley. Photo: Augusta University via AP

What they're saying: John Phillips, Laken's stepfather, said on a GoFundMe page that Riley "was an amazing daughter, sister, friend and overall person in general."

  • He also said they plan to use part of the money from the fundraiser to establish a scholarship in her name and promote "homicide awareness and safety for women."
  • "She will be missed every day, but we promise to honor her life moving forward in a very big way."
  • As of Monday afternoon, the GoFundMe page had raised more than $124,000.

The big picture: The death of Riley, who was on a morning jog when police say she was killed, reignited fears many female athletes have when they run alone, the Associated Press reports.

  • Riley's death compounded the grief of the UGA community; freshman student Wyatt Banks died by suicide on campus the day before Riley's killing. Both were memorialized at a vigil on Monday.

Meanwhile: The Feb. 23 arrest of Riley's accused killer, Jose Antonio Ibarra, has renewed tensions over the nation's immigration policies.

  • Federal authorities said Ibarra is a Venezuela native who illegally crossed the border in Texas in 2022.

The latest: Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp called Riley's death preventable when he addressed the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce as part of a previously scheduled appearance on Monday morning, WSB-TV reports.

  • UGA students are seeking more protections on campus even though the university has invested $16 million into security efforts over nearly a decade, the AJC reports.
  • Georgia's senior Republicans are considering several still-evolving proposals, such as more stringent requirements that local governments cooperate with federal immigration authorities and stiffer penalties for illegal immigrants convicted of crimes, the AJC reports.

What's next: A visitation and funeral service for Riley will be held at Woodstock City Church on Friday.

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