Illegal Immigrant Circled University Student Mollie Tibbetts Right Before Her Murder, Prosecutor Alleges


Marlo Safi Culture Reporter
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Prosecutors alleged that the Mexican national suspected of killing 20-year-old Mollie Tibbetts in 2018 had admitted that he saw the victim while she was out running one evening and circled back for another look because she was “hot,” Fox News reported Wednesday.

The first-degree murder trial of Cristhian Bahena Rivera, 26, opened Wednesday in Davenport, Iowa. Poweshiek County Attorney Bart Klaver said in his opening statement that Rivera, an illegal alien from Mexico, admitted to stopping his car after seeing Tibbetts, and began running alongside her on July 18, according to Fox News. Tibbetts was a University of Iowa student at the time of her death. 

Prosecutors said Rivera admitted that he got angry when Tibbetts threatened to call the police, and that he couldn’t remember what happened immediately after. He allegedly said the next thing he remembered was driving his vehicle with Tibbett’s bloody body in the trunk before carrying her body to a cornfield to hide her, according to Fox News. (RELATED: Mollie Tibbetts’s Father Asks The Country To Not Make His Daughter’s Death Political)

Rivera was a farm laborer suspected of illegally entering the U.S. as a teenager, according to The Associated Press (AP). Tibbetts’ disappearance in July 2018 prompted a massive search effort involving hundreds of law enforcement officials and volunteers. 

Investigators were led to Rivera after allegedly linking a Chevy Malibu captured in a surveillance video to him. The vehicle was allegedly captured circling Tibbetts, and a deputy later spotted Rivera driving the car, according to AP.

Investigators say they found blood in the car’s trunk, and after initially denying involvement, Rivera allegedly admitted to having approached Tibbetts and then killing her in a panic, AP reported. He allegedly led police to Tibbett’s body five weeks after the victim went missing. Investigators say she was buried under leaves at a cornfield, and had injuries consistent with a stabbing. 

Klaver said the autopsy report found that Tibbetts had been stabbed between 7 to 12 times in the chest, ribs, neck and skull, according to Fox News.

The defense had reportedly tried to get Rivera’s confession thrown out because it was made without a reading of his Miranda rights, according to Fox News. However, prosecutors also relied on DNA evidence and video to prove Rivera’s alleged guilt. Investigators say the DNA found in Rivera’s trunk was a match for Tibbetts, according to AP.

Blake Jack, Tibbetts’ boyfriend’s brother, was among the first witnesses to testify at the trial on Wednesday, according to Fox News. Blake said his brother, Dalton Jack, had called him to tell him Tibbetts was missing. 

Dalton had been notified that Tibbetts didn’t show up for her shift at the daycare she worked at, Blake reportedly said. When returning home to check on her after being out of town, Blake said he didn’t notice anything unusual and that it was normal to not lock doors in the small town.

Defense attorney Jennifer Frese asked Blake to describe what kind of weapons he had in his home and whether his brother had anger issues. He responded that the two would often go hunting, and rejected the defense’s suggestions that Tibbetts and Dalton had relationship issues, according to Fox News. 

Dalton, however, acknowledged he used to have a “short fuse” and had previously cheated on Tibbetts once, which she became aware of after looking through his phone, according to AP

Defense lawyer Chad Frese brought up a text message from a woman Jack had previously had a relationship with that said “Dalton, is Mollive alive?” The text was reportedly sent during the search for Tibbetts, according to the AP. 

The trial is expected to last two weeks, according to the AP. If convicted, Rivera faces life in prison without parole.