Laken Hope Riley, a 22-year-old nursing student at Augusta University, tragically lost her life in an incident that has left the University of Georgia (UGA) community in shock. Found dead at UGA’s intramural fields on February 22, around 12:30 in the afternoon, her death marks a grim milestone as the first homicide on the UGA campus in 41 years.

Riley, remembered as a dedicated and compassionate individual, was pursuing her nursing studies with the ambition to make a difference in the healthcare sector. Before her time at Augusta University, she completed her undergraduate degree at UGA in 2023 and was a proud graduate of River Ridge High School in 2020. Her athletic prowess was evident in her participation in her high school’s cross country and track teams, where she was celebrated as an “outstanding scholar athlete” by Cherokee County School District Superintendent Brian Hightower.

Her death, confirmed as a homicide by UGA Police Chief Jeffrey L. Clark, has prompted a rigorous investigation by local authorities. A person of interest has been identified and is currently being questioned, although no formal arrests have been made. The UGA Police Department is determined to leave “no rock unturned” in their pursuit of justice for Riley.

Riley’s family, particularly her mother Allyson Phillips, has shared their grief and memories of Laken on social media. A video from the Augusta University nursing program’s white coat ceremony in August 2023 stands out as a proud moment, highlighting Riley’s commitment to her future career in nursing. Her family’s posts reflect the close bond they shared and the profound loss they are experiencing.

The UGA community has rallied in the wake of Riley’s death, with classes being canceled as a mark of respect and to allow students and staff to process the tragic news. Superintendent Hightower’s tribute to Riley as someone who “inspired classmates and teachers with her love of learning and her kindness to all” echoes the sentiments of all who knew her. The university has urged anyone with information related to Riley’s death to come forward, emphasizing the importance of community vigilance and support during this difficult time.

As investigations continue, the memory of Laken Hope Riley serves as a stark reminder of the fragility of life and the need for unity in the face of tragedy.