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Friends, family and community members gathered at Woodstock City Church in Woodstock, Georgia, on Friday afternoon to remember Laken Riley, a 22-year-old Augusta University nursing student allegedly murdered by an illegal immigrant on Feb. 22.

Riley was jogging along dirt trails surrounding Lake Herrick on the University of Georgia campus that Thursday morning when Jose Antonio Ibarra, a 26-year-old Venezuelan national, allegedly attacked and murdered her. She died of blunt-force trauma to the head.

Steady rain fell over Woodstock during the funeral, as hundreds of people gathered to remember the nursing student, described as “passionate,” “kindhearted,” and “amazing daughter, sister, friend and an overall extraordinary person” in her obituary.

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

Laken Riley in a medical coat in a grassy field

The pastor added that Riley “didn’t just believe” her faith; “she lived it.”

“And because of her faith, as hard as days like today are, we grieve her loss and celebrate her life with the hope that she is now in the presence of Jesus, her Savior,” Massad said. “We will miss her dearly. Laken’s family is family to us, and as their church family, we here at Woodstock City Church are committed to walking alongside them and carrying this burden with them. To John, Allyson, and Lauren – we love you all so very much, and we are with you!”

Funeral for Laken Riley in Woodstock Georgia

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

On Wednesday, Riley’s mother, Allyson Phillips, shared a memory of her daughter from one of Riley’s former teachers. The teacher, Gina Ann Carlton Riggs, shared a photo of a project Riley made in the first grade, when they were asked to write books sharing what they wanted to do in the future.

“When I grow up I want to be a nurse because it helps people get better and it looks very fun to help people,” the then-first-grade Riley wrote. “For working I would like to get $10,000. I will not be married[d] I will stay with my family until I die.”

Laken Riley school project

Carlton Riggs told Fox News Digital that she “taught school for 17 years,” and Riley was in her first-grade class “in 2008-2009.”

“She had the sweetest spirit,” Carlton Riggs said in an emailed statement. “She was always smiling and had an infectious giggle. She was just an all-around perfect student. Some of the other moms and I have been going through old pictures for the family. There were so many precious memories of field trips, class performances, and classroom activities.”

Laken Riley poses for a photo posted to Facebook

On Monday, UGA and Augusta University students gathered at UGA’s Tate Plaza to remember their beloved classmates, including Riley and Wyatt Banks, a student who died by suicide days before Riley’s murder.

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

Chloe Mullis, president of UGA’s Alpha Chi Omega chapter, where Riley was a member, described the 22-year-old as a “devoted Christian, sister, student, daughter and friend.”

Laken Riley smiles wearing a brown top

“It is so obvious to me why it feels so dark right now, and it’s because we lost one of the brightest lights there’s ever been,” Mullis said. “This campus and our sisterhood will never be the same without Laken Riley.

“She was devoted to making this world a better place.”

— Chloe Mullis, president, UGA Alpha Chi Omega

“Whether it was nursing school, being the Alpha Chi banner chair or the incredible runner that she was, Laken showed devotion throughout every avenue of her life,” Mullis said. “She was devoted to making this world a better place, and we have no doubt she would have been an incredible nurse. It is earth-shattering that the world will never have that opportunity.”

Georgia nursing students attend Laken Riley vigil

Riley’s murder shocked not only the college communities in Athens, Georgia, but the nation, as politicians and pundits pointed to the border crisis and lax enforcement of immigration laws as the reason Ibarra was able to allegedly commit the gruesome crime. 

LAKEN RILEY MURDER SUSPECT’S BROTHER FIRED FROM UGA AFTER PRESENTING FAKE PASSPORT

Four days after Riley’s death, the White House issued a statement responding to news of Ibarra’s arrest in connection with her brutal killing.

Dozens of female UGA students walking in a single-file line to place roses at the Alpha Chi Omega house on the school's campus.

“We would like to extend our deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of Laken Hope Riley,” a White House spokesperson told Fox News Digital. “People should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law if they are found to be guilty. Given this is an active case, we would have to refer you to state law enforcement and ICE.”

GEORGIA MURDER SUSPECT CONFIRMED TO BE ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT

Former President Trump also spoke out about Riley’s death on Thursday while visiting the U.S.-Mexico border.

“A beautiful 22-year-old nursing student from Georgia was barbarically attacked. She was on a morning run… she was a beautiful young woman,” President Trump said Thursday. “I spoke to her parents yesterday, they are incredible people. They are devastated beyond belief. She was so beautiful in so many ways.” 

Trump said she was “brutally assaulted, horrifically beaten, kidnaped, and savagely murdered.” 

“The monster … charged in the death is an illegal alien migrant who was led into our country and released into our communities by Crooked Joe Biden,” the former president continued.

A photo of the UGA crime scene below photos of Laken Riley and suspect Jose Ibarra

Ibarra and his brother, Diego Ibarra, were living in the country illegally in an apartment complex in Athens when Jose allegedly killed Riley while she was jogging. Jose entered 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. 

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’ Michael Ruiz and Bill Melugin contributed to this report.

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