close Laken Riley’s family lays college student to rest in Georgia Video

Laken Riley’s family lays college student to rest in Georgia

Laken Riley’s family on Friday held a funeral for the 22-year-old Augusta University student killed while jogging on Feb. 22.

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Friends, family and community members gathered at Woodstock City Church in Woodstock, Georgia, on Friday afternoon to remember Laken Riley, a 22-year-old Augusta University nursing student allegedly murdered by an illegal immigrant on Feb. 22.

Riley was jogging along dirt trails surrounding Lake Herrick on the University of Georgia campus that Thursday morning when Jose Antonio Ibarra, a 26-year-old Venezuelan national, allegedly attacked and murdered her. She died of blunt-force trauma to the head.

Steady rain fell over Woodstock during the funeral, as hundreds of people gathered to remember the nursing student, described as “passionate,” “kindhearted,” and “amazing daughter, sister, friend and an overall extraordinary person” in her obituary.

“When the world loses someone like Laken, whose light consistently shined so bright, it seems that much darker in their absence,” Woodstock City Church lead pastor Samer Massad said in a Friday statement to Fox News. “Laken was special. She was a gift to anyone who knew her. Smart, kind, compassionate, and thoughtful don’t even begin to scratch the surface. She was a loving daughter, sister, and friend. She had a gift for making anyone she was around feel comfortable and seen. But the most special thing about Laken was her faith in Jesus.”


Hearse for Laken Riley leaves church funeral

Hearse carrying casket of UGA student Laken Riley departs Woodstock City Church for small cemetery following memorial with more than 1,000 attending, Friday, March 1, 2024. (Robin Rayne for Fox News Digital)

Laken Riley in a medical coat in a grassy field

Laken Riley poses for a photo posted to Facebook. Riley, a nursing student at the University of Georgia, was found dead near a lake on campus on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. (Allyson Phillips/Facebook)

The pastor added that Riley “didn’t just believe” her faith; “she lived it.”

“And because of her faith, as hard as days like today are, we grieve her loss and celebrate her life with the hope that she is now in the presence of Jesus, her Savior,” Massad said. “We will miss her dearly. Laken’s family is family to us, and as their church family, we here at Woodstock City Church are committed to walking alongside them and carrying this burden with them. To John, Allyson, and Lauren – we love you all so very much, and we are with you!”

Funeral for Laken Riley in Woodstock Georgia

A red, black and white bow is among scores of University of Georgia colored memorials attached to trees Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024 in preparation for the funeral Friday at Woodstock City Church for UGA nursing student Laken Riley. (Robin Rayne for Fox News Digital)


On Wednesday, Riley’s mother, Allyson Phillips, shared a memory of her daughter from one of Riley’s former teachers. The teacher, Gina Ann Carlton Riggs, shared a photo of a project Riley made in the first grade, when they were asked to write books sharing what they wanted to do in the future.

“When I grow up I want to be a nurse because it helps people get better and it looks very fun to help people,” the then-first-grade Riley wrote. “For working I would like to get $10,000. I will not be married[d] I will stay with my family until I die.”

Laken Riley school project

Gina Ann Riggs, Laken Riley’s first-grade teacher, shared a photo of a project Riley made in her class, when they were asked to write books sharing what they wanted to do in the future. (Facebook/Gina Ann Riggs)

Carlton Riggs told Fox News Digital that she “taught school for 17 years,” and Riley was in her first-grade class “in 2008-2009.”

“She had the sweetest spirit,” Carlton Riggs said in an emailed statement. “She was always smiling and had an infectious giggle. She was just an all-around perfect student. Some of the other moms and I have been going through old pictures for the family. There were so many precious memories of field trips, class performances, and classroom activities.”

Laken Riley poses for a photo posted to Facebook

Laken Riley poses for a photo posted to Facebook. Riley, a nursing student at the University of Georgia, was found dead near a lake on campus on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. (Laken Riley/Facebook)

On Monday, UGA and Augusta University students gathered at UGA’s Tate Plaza to remember their beloved classmates, including Riley and Wyatt Banks, a student who died by suicide days before Riley’s murder.


Chloe Mullis, president of UGA’s Alpha Chi Omega chapter, where Riley was a member, described the 22-year-old as a “devoted Christian, sister, student, daughter and friend.”

Laken Riley smiles wearing a brown top

Laken Riley poses for a photo posted to Facebook. Riley, a nursing student at the University of Georgia, was found dead near a lake on campus on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. (Laken Riley/Facebook)

“It is so obvious to me why it feels so dark right now, and it’s because we lost one of the brightest lights there’s ever been,” Mullis said. “This campus and our sisterhood will never be the same without Laken Riley.

“She was devoted to making this world a better place.”

— Chloe Mullis, president, UGA Alpha Chi Omega

“Whether it was nursing school, being the Alpha Chi banner chair or the incredible runner that she was, Laken showed devotion throughout every avenue of her life,” Mullis said. “She was devoted to making this world a better place, and we have no doubt she would have been an incredible nurse. It is earth-shattering that the world will never have that opportunity.”

Georgia nursing students attend Laken Riley vigil

Augusta University students, in blue, and University of Georgia students gather at the Tate Plaza on the UGA campus in Athens, Ga., Monday, Feb. 26, 2024, to pay tribute to Laken Riley, a nursing student at Augusta University’s Athens campus who was found dead Thursday, Feb. 22, after a roommate reported she didn’t return from a morning run in a wooded area of the UGA campus near its intramural fields. UGA students also gathered to pay tribute to a student who died by suicide last week.  (Nell Carroll/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Riley’s murder shocked not only the college communities in Athens, Georgia, but the nation, as politicians and pundits pointed to the border crisis and lax enforcement of immigration laws as the reason Ibarra was able to allegedly commit the gruesome crime. 


Four days after Riley’s death, the White House issued a statement responding to news of Ibarra’s arrest in connection with her brutal killing.

Dozens of female UGA students walking in a single-file line to place roses at the Alpha Chi Omega house on the school's campus.

Following the vigil, dozens of female UGA students walked in a single-file line to place roses at the Alpha Chi Omega house on the school’s campus.  (Fox News Digital)

“We would like to extend our deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of Laken Hope Riley,” a White House spokesperson told Fox News Digital. “People should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law if they are found to be guilty. Given this is an active case, we would have to refer you to state law enforcement and ICE.”


Former President Trump also spoke out about Riley’s death on Thursday while visiting the U.S.-Mexico border.

Trump, Biden respond to alleged illegal immigrant murder of college student Laken Riley Video

“A beautiful 22-year-old nursing student from Georgia was barbarically attacked. She was on a morning run… she was a beautiful young woman,” President Trump said Thursday. “I spoke to her parents yesterday, they are incredible people. They are devastated beyond belief. She was so beautiful in so many ways.” 

Trump said she was “brutally assaulted, horrifically beaten, kidnaped, and savagely murdered.” 

“The monster … charged in the death is an illegal alien migrant who was led into our country and released into our communities by Crooked Joe Biden,” the former president continued.

A photo of the UGA crime scene below photos of Laken Riley and suspect Jose Ibarra

University of Georgia murder suspect Jose Ibarra lived within a five-minute walk of the approximate scene where he allegedly murdered 22-year-old nursing student Laken Riley on Feb. 22. (Mark Sims for Fox News Digital/Laken Riley/Jose Ibarra)


Ibarra and his brother, Diego Ibarra, were living in the country illegally in an apartment complex in Athens when Jose allegedly killed Riley while she was jogging. Jose entered through the U.S.-Mexico border in 2022 and was freed on border parole. He initially lived in New York City before moving to the Georgia college town. 

Diego Ibarra was fired from a dishwashing job at UGA after presenting fake green card documents, the school previously told Fox News Digital.

Fox News’ Michael Ruiz and Bill Melugin contributed to this report.

Audrey Conklin is a digital reporter for Fox News Digital and FOX Business. Email tips to [email protected] or on Twitter at @audpants.

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