On This Date: Mollie Tibbetts’ body found in 2018

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Mollie Tibbetts 4

On this date in 2018, Iowa college student Mollie Tibbetts was found dead, just over a month after she was reported missing. The then 20-year-old had been last seen July 18, jogging near her home in the central Iowa town of Brooklyn. 

The body was discovered in a field in Poweshiek County.

Cristhian Bahena Rivera has been charged in connection to Mollie’s death. Mollie’s body was found in a cornfield just outside of Brooklyn.

Investigators believe Rivera followed Tibbetts on July 18, 2018 and abducted her as she was out for a jog.

Surveillance video showed a car that investigators traced back to Rivera, said Rick Rahn, a special agent in charge with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.

“It seemed that he followed her, seemed to be drawn to her on that particular day, and for whatever reason, he chose to abduct her,” Rahn said.

According to an affidavit filed in Poweshiek County District Court, security video provided by a citizen showed Tibbetts running east of Brooklyn and a dark-colored Malibu driving back and forth in the area several times. Investigators connected the Malibu to Rivera, and interviewed him a day before she was found in 2018.

In a “lengthy” interview, Rivera allegedly admitted following Tibbetts, telling investigators that he parked his car, got out and started running behind and alongside her.

Rivera said Tibbetts grabbed her phone and said “I’m gonna call the police,” according to the affidavit. Rivera said he “panicked and got mad,” and then said he “blocked” his memory, “which is what he does when he gets very upset.” He said he couldn’t remember anything after that until he came to at an intersection.

Rivera said he made a U-turn and drove into the driveway of a cornfield, where he saw an earpiece from headphones in his lap, “and that is how he realized he put her in the trunk.”

Rivera told police he got Tibbetts from the trunk and noticed blood on the side of her head, the affidavit says. He described her clothing and said she was wearing headphones. He said he dragged her on foot from his vehicle to a secluded location in the cornfield and then put her on his shoulder and took her about 20 meters into the field. He allegedly said he covered Tibbetts in corn leaves.

Rivera later led investigators to the remains, the affidavit says.

The State Medical Examiner determined that the manner of death was a homicide resulting from multiple sharp force injuries. Autopsy reports are confidential under Iowa law, except for the cause and manner of death.  

Rivera is currently awaiting to face trial in Scott County on January 25, 2021. The trial had been delayed indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic until that ruling.

A judge has already ruled parts of Rivera’s interviews with police are not admissible in court. The court found that Rivera was not properly read his Miranda rights.

The family of Mollie Tibbetts released a statement to the media and the public on August 22, 2018.

“Our hearts are broken,” said the Tibbetts family in the statement. “On behalf of Mollie’s entire family, we thank all of those from around the world who have sent their thoughts and prayers for our girl. We know that many of you will join us as we continue to carry Mollie in our hearts forever. At this time, our family asks that we be allowed the time to process our devastating loss and share our grief in private. Again, thank you for the outpouring of love and support that has been shared in Mollie’s name. We remain forever grateful.”

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