For Suspect in U. of Georgia Killing, an Obscure Trail Across States

Jose Antonio Ibarra, the man charged with the killing of a nursing student on the University of Georgia campus, migrated from Venezuela, was arrested when he crossed the border illegally near El Paso, Texas, in September 2022 and made a detour to New York.

In addition to the border arrest, he was cited for two nonviolent offenses before Laken Riley, a 22-year-old nursing student at Augusta University, was killed by apparent blows to the head last Thursday on a University of Georgia running trail.

Mr. Ibarra, 26, was living at a modest apartment complex filled with immigrants from around the world who worked in poultry plants, fast food restaurants and construction work in and around Athens, Ga.

His nomadic life was in some ways a familiar journey until it became a very unfamiliar one — when he was charged last Friday with Ms. Riley’s murder and thrust into the raging currents of the nation’s bitter divisions over immigration.

Laken Riley in a photo from a social media account.

Now he faces charges of murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, hindering a 911 call and concealing the death of another person. The Clarke County coroner Sonny Wilson said in preliminary findings that the cause of Ms. Riley’s death was blunt force trauma to the head. The full autopsy results may not be available for a few more weeks.

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