‘Peeping Tom’ Charge Included in Indictment For Laken Riley’s Murder Suspect

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The man accused of brutally killing Laken Riley as she was on a morning run on the University of Georgia campus was formally indicted Wednesday, two-and-a-half months after her killing reverberated across the country.

Jose Antonio Ibarra, an undocumented immigrant from Venezuela, was officially slapped with 10 charges, including felony murder, malice murder, kidnapping with bodily injury, and aggravated assault with intent to rape.

Those charges had been expected for months, but prosecutors also issued Ibarra a surprise “peeping Tom” charge on Tuesday. His indictment alleged that he spied on an unnamed UGA staff member, going to an apartment near campus and looking through the woman’s window on the same morning Riley was murdered.

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No other details about the alleged peeping was listed in the indictment.

At the least, Ibarra is staring down a lifetime behind bars if convicted. The charges mean prosecutors could seek the death penalty, as its permitted and executions remain active in Georgia, but they’ve given no indication on their intentions.

Prosecutors detailed in the indictment that Ibarra attempted to rape Riley by pulling up her clothing “with the intent to have carnal knowledge of her forcibly and against her will.” They claimed Ibarra also choked Riley and caused blunt-force trauma “by seriously disfiguring her head” and striking her “multiple times with a rock.”

Police described Riley’s slaying as a crime of opportunity, saying Ibarra saw an opportunity to prey on a young woman and took advantage of it on Feb. 22. He was named a suspect using DNA evidence and security footage.

Riley, 22, had recently graduated from the UGA and had been living in Athens, an iconic college town, while she continued studying nursing at a nearby university.

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Police said Riley had no known relationship with Ibarra, a 26-year-old who immigrated to the U.S. in 2022 and had been arrested twice—once in New York City for riding on a scooter with a child who was not wearing a helmet, and again in Athens last year, for allegedly shoplifting. Ibarra is yet to enter a plea in the murder case, and he remains in custody.

Riley’s body was discovered with “visible injuries” near a lake by the university’s intramural fields, police said, and a coroner later ruled she had died by blunt-force trauma.

Her murder grabbed national headlines, particularly after it was revealed that an undocumented immigrant was allegedly behind the crime. Conservative media and politicians combined to skewer Joe Biden, claiming U.S. failures at the southern border led to Riley’s death.

This discourse reached a fever pitch at the State of the Union address in February, two weeks after Riley was killed, when Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene interrupted Biden’s address to shout “say her name.”

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A visibly fired up Biden, then speaking off the cuff, called Greene’s bluff and paused his speech to address the tragedy. In doing so, however, he mispronounced Riley’s first name—irking her mom—and referred to Ibarra as an “illegal,” which angered progressives. Biden later conceded he should have used the word undocumented to describe Ibarra.

In the months that followed, legislation has was written in Riley’s honor at both the federal and local level. That included the Laken Riley Act, which passed the House and would have required the Department of Homeland Security to detain undocumented people who are accused of certain crimes within U.S. borders. Senate Democrats blocked the bill from reaching Biden’s desk, however.

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