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Georgia nursing student found dead on UGA campus identified as Laken Riley

Georgia attorney Philip Holloway said the UGA death of an Augusta University student may be a 'criminal homicide.' The female nursing student was found dead Thursday.

The Augusta University nursing student found dead on the University of Georgia’s campus Thursday has been identified as 22-year-old Laken Riley.

Augusta University President Brooks Keel said in a Friday statement the school extends its “deepest sympathies to the family of Laken Riley, a junior and Dean’s List student who studied at our campus in Athens.”

UGA said in a Friday statement that the school was “able to complete notification of the family in the death of the young woman whose body was found in the woods behind Lake Herrick yesterday afternoon. The victim has been identified as Laken Riley.”


“Laken was a student at UGA through Spring Semester 2023, prior to transferring to the Augusta University College of Nursing program at Athens, where she was currently enrolled,” the school said in a news release.

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University police found Riley deceased with “visible injuries” in a forested area behind Lake Herrick around 12:30 p.m. Thursday after a friend called authorities to report that she left for a run Thursday morning and never returned. Invesitgators are investigating her death as a homicide. 

Anyone who may have seen anything “relevant or suspicious” near UGA’s Intramural Fields between 7 a.m. and noon Thursday is asked to call campus police at 706-542-2200.

“I think it’s going to be a short period of time before they find a suspect,” Georgia  criminal defense attorney Philip Holloway told Fox News Digital. “It wouldn’t surprise me if this is a criminal homicide.”

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The student’s death remains under investigation as of Friday morning, a UGA spokesperson told Fox News Digital. Classes at UGA and Augusta University College of Nursing campus at Athens were canceled on Friday.

Holloway, founder of the Holloway Law Group, said authorities will likely set up a “geofence,” or virtual fence, around the crime scene to determine who came in and out of the Lake Herrick area by looking into cellphone tower data. It should be noted that AT&T experienced a nationwide outage Thursday morning and afternoon, impacting customers across the southeast.

The criminal defense attorney described Athens as a “typical college town.”

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The last time UGA reported a homicide on campus was 20 years ago, UGA Police Chief Jeffrey Clark said during a Thursday evening press conference. The police chief said that there was not “immediate danger” on campus.

“Sources in the area are considering the possibility that this may be related to cases in the past,” Holloway said, including any cases of assaults against assaults against women in the area of UGA’s intramural fields.

Federal authorities said they were ready to help as necessary.

“FBI Atlanta is aware of the death at the University of Georgia,” an FBI spokesperson said Friday. “We are in contact with our law enforcement partners. If assistance is requested, the FBI is ready to help.”

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Lake Herrick is part of UGA’s campus, nestled between various university practice fields and Oconee Forest Park. The lake is bordered by a pedestrian trail and has a recreational beach. Authorities are asking the public to avoid the area as they investigate.

A University of Augusta spokesperson confirmed to Fox News Digital that the student’s death occurred on UGA’s campus. 

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“It is with deepest sorrow that I share with you the news that one of our students at our College of Nursing campus at Athens has passed away,” Augusta University President Brooks A. Keel said in a statement. “Police have said they suspect foul play. The receipt of this news this afternoon was shocking to all of us.”

In a press release, UGA said “foul play is suspected.” No suspects have been identified as of Friday.

WATCH:

Athens-Clarke County Mayor Kelly Girtz said in a Thursday evening statement sharing his condolences and calling the death a “murder.”

“I join everyone here at the Athens-Clarke County Unified Government in deep sadness over today’s murder in our city,” Girtz said. “We promise to do everything possible to collaborate with UGA PD to bring this investigation to a rapid conclusion, and will continue to work overtime to prevent further tragedies.”

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) and the Athens Clarke-County Police Department are assisting UGA police in their investigation. Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact 706-542-2200.

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