MONTEZUMA, Iowa – A hearing is being held Tuesday at the Poweshiek County Courthouse on whether the man convicted of Mollie Tibbetts’ murder deserves a new trial.
Defense attorneys for Cristhian Bahena Rivera are expected to present new evidence about a separate purported suspect in the murder in an attempt to win a new trial for their client.
In May, jurors convicted Rivera of first-degree murder in the death of Tibbetts. The 20-year-old University of Iowa student disappeared during a run in her hometown of Brooklyn in July of 2018.
Investigators say just over a month after she disappeared Rivera led them to Tibbetts’ body, which was concealed in a cornfield.
During his trial, Rivera testified about two masked men he said forced him to help in the abduction of Tibbetts. He claimed those men killed her.
Rivera was supposed to be sentenced to life in prison earlier this month, but the judge decided to delay the sentencing after Rivera’s lawyers requested a new trial.
Rivera’s defense says it has new evidence that a Poweshiek County inmate may have been involved in the crime. They claim two unconnected people have come forward to say that the same man, Gavin Jones, admitted that he killed Mollie Tibbetts. The first witness is an inmate at an Iowa jail who says Jones told him that he abducted Tibbetts to be sex trafficked. The second witness, a former girlfriend of Jones’, says he admitted to killing Tibbetts to her as well.
Assistant Attorney General Scott Brown, who prosecuted the case, said there is no evidence to support that story.
A motion filed by the defense that affidavits in the case involving alleged abuse by Jones to an infant child and another claim of domestic violence be sealed to protect the identities of the victims has been approved by the judge.
The state has filed a motion to quash subpoenas the defense has made to multiple local law enforcement officers and agencies that are in relation to sex trafficking investigations. In its efforts to gain a new trial, the defense has claimed that Tibbetts’ murder is linked to sex trafficking and even said it could be connected to the disappearance of Xavior Harrelson. The judge has not yet ruled on this motion.
Rivera’s hearing for a new case will begin at 9:00 a.m. at the Poweshiek County Courthouse in Montezuma.