National Roundup

Court documents shed new details in killing of nursing student

ATLANTA (AP) — The suspect in the killing of a nursing student on the University of Georgia campus used an object as a weapon in the crime and he’s also accused of “disfiguring her skull,” according to newly filed arrest affidavits.

Jose Ibarra, who faces multiple murder and assault charges, is also accused of dragging 22-year-old Laken Riley to a secluded area on Thursday, according to one of the affidavits obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press. The allegation that he dragged Riley’s body was filed to support the charge of concealing the death of another person.

Authorities have not said exactly how Riley was killed, only that her death was caused by blunt force trauma. Further details about the type of object used, or exactly how she was killed, are not included in the affidavits for arrest.

The affidavits, filed in Athens-Clarke County Superior Court, state that the crimes were committed between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Thursday.

Ibarra, 26, is a Venezuelan citizen who immigration authorities say unlawfully crossed into the United States in 2022.

Riley was a nursing student at Augusta University’s Athens campus, after starting her college career at the much larger Athens campus of the University of Georgia. She was found dead Thursday after a roommate reported she didn’t return from a morning run in a wooded area of the University of Georgia campus near its intramural fields.

Hundreds of students and faculty members gathered Monday afternoon for a vigil for Riley organized by her sorority sisters at the University of Georgia campus.

State Supreme Court rules in favor of major copper mine

Stalled work on a major copper mine proposed in central Montana can proceed after the state’s Supreme Court ruled Monday that officials had adequately reviewed the project’s environmental effects.

The court’s 5-2 decision overturns a 2022 lower court ruling that effectively blocked work on the Black Butte mine north of White Sulphur Springs by revoking its permit.

Attorneys for Montana Trout Unlimited and other conservation groups claimed the mine’s permit from the Department of Environmental Quality, or DEQ, was unlawful.

“We are satisfied that DEQ made a reasoned decision,” Justice Beth Baker wrote in Monday’s 65-page majority opinion. She added that state officials “made a scientifically driven permitting decision that was supported by substantial evidence,” including engineering reports, scientific studies and comparisons with other mines around the world.

The underground mine sponsored by Vancouver-based Sandfire Resources — formerly Tintina Resources — is proposed along a tributary of the Smith River, a waterway so popular among boaters that the state holds an annual lottery to decide who can float down it.

State officials had argued that the mine’s permit included requirements that would protect the river.

Justices Ingrid Gustafson and Laurie McKinnon said in a dissenting opinion that state officials did not sufficiently examine the safety and stability of a waste storage facility at the mine site, nor the potential for pollution from the mine to enter a nearby creek.

“We cannot defer to an inadequate analysis unsupported by the record,” they wrote.

Preliminary work at the site including some road construction began in 2021. It’s being built on private land and would extract 15.3 million tons of copper-laden rock and waste over 15 years — roughly 440 tons a day.

Opponents say the waste material will threaten water quality and trout populations in the Smith River. A separate challenge of the mine’s water permit is pending.

“Our fight to protect the Smith is not over,” said David Brooks with Montana Trout Unlimited. “We will continue to pursue our coalition’s claims of illegal water use by the mine.”

Sandfire Resources Vice President Nancy Schlepp said the company had been unable to do any work underground pending resolution of the case before the high court.

She said the timeline for construction and how it will be financed were still being discussed by the company’s board of directors.

“Laken showed devotion with every aspect of her life,” said Chloe Mullis, president of the University of Georgia chapter of Alpha Chi Omega. “Doing things halfway just wasn’t an option. We lost one of the brightest lights that has ever been.”

Republicans including former President Donald Trump and Gov. Brian Kemp have used the killing to attack the immigration policies of President Joe Biden.

U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement says Ibarra was detained by the Border Patrol on Sept. 8, 2022, after entering from Mexico near El Paso, Texas. He was released for further processing, according to ICE. It’s unclear if Ibarra applied for asylum.

According to ICE, Ibarra was arrested by New York police on Aug. 31 and charged with acting in a manner to injure a child less than 17 and a motor vehicle license violation. Ibarra was released before ICE could ask New York officials to hold him until immigration authorities could take him into custody, ICE said. New York officials said Sunday they had no record of the arrest.

Judge shot in home; son arrested and charged, authorities say

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama judge remained hospitalized after he was shot over the weekend, and his son has been taken into custody, authorities said Monday.

Montgomery County Judge Johnny Hardwick, the presiding judge of the 15th Judicial Circuit, underwent surgery following Saturday’s shooting.

Montgomery County Sheriff Derrick Cunningham told news outlets the judge was assaulted, shot and seriously injured at about 1 p.m. Saturday at his home. The sheriff said the judge’s son, Khalfani A. Hardwick, 36, fled from the home and was later found on a highway and arrested without incident in connection with the attack.

“I am just asking that we continue to pray for the judge,” Cunningham said, reported.

The younger Hardwick faces charges of first-degree domestic violence and possessing a firearm when forbidden to do so. He’s being held at the Montgomery County Detention facility without bond on the first charge and $15,000 set for the second, according to jail records.

Jail records did not indicate if he has an attorney who could speak on his behalf.

It is unknown what led to the shooting, which remains under investigation.

Johnny Hardwick, a circuit judge since 2001, is the current president of the Alabama Association of Circuit Court Judges.