Police ID person of interest in death of Augusta University student found dead on UGA campus

Rebekah Riess, CNN | 2/23/2024, 3:43 p.m.
University of Georgia Police have identified a person of interest who is being questioned in relation to the on-campus death …
Police are investigating the scene at the University of Georgia in Athens where a nursing student was found dead. Mandatory Credit: CNN via CNN Newsource

University of Georgia Police have identified a person of interest who is being questioned in relation to the on-campus death of 22-year-old Laken Hope Riley on Thursday, a UGA spokesperson said.

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'Sending shockwaves': Campus rocked after student found dead

The body of a woman found dead on the University of Georgia campus has been identified as 22-year-old Laken Hope Riley, the Athens-Clarke County coroner told CNN. CNN's Ryan Young reports from the trail where Riley was found. Source: WSB, CNN

“We want to stress that this continues to be an active ongoing investigation,” spokesperson Greg Trevor said.

Investigators have been scouring a wooded area on campus trying to find clues as to who may have killed Riley. She was found dead after jogging in the area.

Riley was an Augusta University College of Nursing student at its campus in Athens, which is also home to the University of Georgia. She was a junior on the dean’s list, Augusta University said.

Her body was found near a lake on UGA’s campus Thursday afternoon. Her remains were publicly identified Friday morning.

Riley’s cause and manner of death had not been determined, pending an examination of her body that’s set to take place later Friday, Athens-Clarke County Coroner Sonny Wilson told CNN.

Now, with a possible suspect still at large and two college communities grieving, classes have been canceled as authorities search for clues.

Police believe foul play was involved

Authorities received a call around noon on Thursday from a person who was concerned after their friend went jogging at the university’s intramural fields and never returned, University of Georgia Police Chief Jeffrey L. Clark said Thursday evening.

Investigators found the jogger’s body around 12:38 p.m. in an area behind a nearby lake, Clark said.

Police said they suspect foul play was involved. But no suspect information or possible motive has been released.

When he was asked whether there was any danger to the public following the death, the police chief said: “When you have a suspect that’s on the loose, there’s always a danger. But there’s no immediate danger at this time.”

The student had ties to both universities

Before her enrollment at Augusta University, Riley was a student at UGA.

“The victim was an undergraduate student at the University of Georgia until the spring of 2023, and then she became a nursing student at the Augusta University nursing program in Athens,” UGA spokesperson Cole Sosebee said.

All classes on the University of Georgia’s Athens campus are canceled Friday and will resume Monday, the school said.

Augusta University has canceled Friday classes at the College of Nursing campus in Athens, which is about 2.5 miles from the University of Georgia’s intramural fields.

Augusta University’s president issued a statement Thursday, mourning the loss of the student.

“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 letter to his school’s community.

Authorities ask anyone with information about Riley’s death to contact the UGA Police Department at 706-542-2200.

UGA suffers 2 tragedies less than a day apart

Riley’s body was discovered hours after the “sudden death” of a UGA student the night before, campus officials said.

That student was found dead in Brumby Hall, and police found “no indications of any criminal actions or foul play,” according to UGA police records. The incident was listed as a death investigation/suicide.

“The past 24 hours have been a traumatic time for our university,” the school said Thursday. “And as we continue to mourn that tragic loss of life, today’s devastating news will uniquely test the resolve of our campus community, particularly our students.”