Convicted in Mollie Tibbetts’ murder, Rivera wants new trial after 2 name another suspect

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Cristhian Bahena Rivera listens as Assistant Iowa Attorney General Scott Brown delivers his closing arguments in his trial, Thursday, May 27, 2021, at the Scott County Courthouse in Davenport, Iowa. Bahena Rivera is on trial after being charged with first degree murder in the death of Mollie Tibbetts in July 2018. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, pool) and FILE – In this September 2016 file photo provided by Kim Calderwood, Mollie Tibbetts poses for a picture during homecoming festivities at BGM High School in her hometown of Brooklyn, Iowa. Video evidence, DNA analysis and a partial confession will be critical to proving Cristhian Bahena Rivera, a farm laborer, stabbed Tibbetts, a University of Iowa student, to death while she was out for a run in 2018, a prosecutor told jurors Wednesday, May 19, 2021. (Kim Calderwood via AP, File)

The man convicted of killing college student Mollie Tibbetts has asked for a new trial after his attorneys say two other people have come forward and named another suspect.

On May 28, a jury found Cristhian Rivera guilty of first-degree murder in the July 2018 slaying.

Chad and Jennifer Frese, Rivera’s attorneys, ask the court to set aside the verdict after they say two people came forward with more information about another suspect four hours apart on May 26.

“It was reported that this Department of Corrections inmate was coming forward at this time because he had heard the testimony of Cristhian Bahena Rivera on television and it was at that point he realized that the information given him by this other individual was likely true,” documents say.

An inmate told the associate warden that while previously in a county jail in or near Poweshiek County, he was told by another inmate information about the Mollie Tibbetts murder.  The other inmate said he and another person were staying in a “trap house” owned by a man involved in sex trafficking.

The other inmate said he went to a second “trap house” owned by the man, and saw Mollie Tibbetts bound and gagged.

The other inmates said he and the second individual carried out a plan by the house owner to kill Mollie Tibbetts to stab her and dump her body near a Hispanic man to make it appear the Hispanic man committed the crime.

The inmate said they killed her and carried out the plan so the Hispanic man would be incriminated, court records say.

Records say that, shortly after 3 p.m. May 26, another person called the Poweshiek County Sheriff’s Office with information on the case. “At that time, a deputy sheriff with Poweshiek County contacted the Mahaska County Sheriff who evidently had spoken with the reporting party,” documents say.

“The Mahaska County Sheriff dismissed the information as not being credible as it appeared the reporting party may be under the influence of some intoxicant. Evidently, however, the individual did give information regarding Mollie Tibbetts’ death to that department,” records say.

Shortly before 5:30 p.m. May 26, the individual appeared at the Poweshiek County Sheriff’s Office to be interviewed within four hours of when the inmate gave information.

“The reporting party herein and inmate are unknown to each other,” documents say.

Documents also say the individual was in contact with law enforcement with four other people in a car who ultimately ended up being arrested and taken to jail. During the time leading up to the arrest, one of the people in the car pulled a pistol on the individual, held it to the person’s head, and said “(Rivera) shouldn’t be in jail for killing Mollie Tibbetts because I raped her and killed her.”

Rivera, the documents say, “chose to testify and spoke of two individuals who were involved in the abduction and killing of Mollie Tibbetts. The DNA from (his car) trunk identified other individuals who were contributors to the blood mixture.”

“While perhaps not every bit of the account fits neatly into defendant’s account of the events, enough of the facts fit to certainly question whether the state would have been able to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt had this information been known and presented to a jury,” the attorneys say in the documents.

Rivera’s sentencing is set for Thursday.

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