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Laken Riley’s mother speaks out about ‘avoidable tragedy’ after daughter’s funeral

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Laken Riley’s mother speaks out about ‘avoidable tragedy’ after daughter’s funeral

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Laken Riley’s mother, Allyson Phillips, on Saturday shared a public message for the first time since her daughter’s Feb. 22 murder, calling it an “avoidable tragedy” in a Facebook post.

Riley, a 22-year-old nursing student at Augusta University, was killed while jogging on trails around the University of Georgia campus. Jose Antonio Ibarra, a 26-year-old Venezuelan national who was living illegally in the United States, has been charged in her murder, which police described as a “crime of opportunity.”

“As I sat down to write this message, I really just have no words,” Phillips wrote on Facebook. “My family has faced the most devastating, unimaginable loss that anyone could ever be force [sic] to endure. I would like to thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for being with me and my family during this heartbreaking time. I encourage everyone to have a personal relationship with Jesus. I give Him all the glory for getting us through this.”

She added that “[i]t would be really easy to lose our faith in mankind because of this senseless and avoidable tragedy,” but said her family has received an overwhelming “amount of love, support and help” during what she described as a “horrific nightmare.”

LAKEN RILEY FUNERAL IN GEORGIA COMMEMORATES NURSING STUDENT ALLEGEDLY KILLED BY ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT

Laken Riley in a medical coat in a grassy field

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

“I can’t begin to tell you all how much we appreciate all of the text, calls, flowers, meals, groceries, bows, pictures, personal gifts, memorials, gift cards and donations to Laken’s foundation,” she said. “We are beyond grateful for everyone who has stepped up to be here for us through this difficult time. The outpouring of love has been so enormous – that I felt this was the best way to thank you all in a timely manner. I hope that each and every one of you know how much we love you and appreciate all you have done.”

Phillips asked the public to “continue to pray” for her family as they “put one foot in front of the other moving forward.” She also changed her profile picture to a photo of a black and red heart – UGA’s colors – featuring Laken’s name, along with the hashtag #sayhername.

LAKEN RILEY MURDER EXPOSED GLARING SECURITY LAPSES ON COLLEGE CAMPUSES, NEED FOR EMERGENCY BLUE LIGHTS

Hearse for Laken Riley leaves church funeral

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

Phillips laid her daughter to rest on a rainy Friday afternoon in Woodstock, Georgia. 

LAKEN RILEY MURDER: STUDENTS ON UGA CAMPUS, JOGGERS NATIONWIDE SHOCKED AFTER ALLEGED ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT KILLING

“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.”

Laken Riley poses for a photo posted to Facebook

Laken Riley was laid rest on a rainy Friday afternoon in Woodstock, Georgia. (Laken Riley/Facebook)

Jose Ibarra and his brother, Diego Ibarra, lived together in an apartment complex in Athens located about a five-minute walk from the approximate scene near Lake Herrick on UGA’s campus where Riley was killed. 

LAKEN RILEY MURDER SUSPECT LIVED WITHIN 5-MINUTE WALK OF UGA CRIME SCENE

Jose entered the United States 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. 

Jose Antonio Ibarra Mugshot

Jose Ibarra was arrested on Feb. 23 in connection with Laken Riley’s Feb. 22 murder in Athens, Georgia. (Clarke County Sheriff’s Office)

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He is charged with malice murder, felony murder, aggravated battery, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, kidnapping, hindering a 911 call and concealing the death of another.

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’ David Lewcowtik contributed to this report.

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