Police May Have Coerced Confession From Mollie Tibbetts’ Alleged Killer Bahena Rivera, Defense Says


Marlo Safi Culture Reporter
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Investigators may have coerced a confession from Cristhian Bahena Rivera, the man suspected of murdering University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts in 2018, his attorneys said Tuesday during the trial.

Bahena Rivera’s attorneys argued that investigators may have convinced him that he couldn’t remember killing Tibbetts because he “blacked out” when he stabbed her, the Daily Beast reported.

“What the evidence has shown you and what the evidence will show you is there was a systematic confrontation with my client … and the confrontation continued until it was put in my client’s head: Maybe you blacked out,” said Jennifer Frese, one of Bahena Rivera’s attorneys, according to the Daily Beast. (RELATED: Illegal Immigrant Circled University Student Mollie Tibbetts Right Before Her Murder, Prosecutor Alleges)

Prosecutors have previously said Bahena 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.

Bahena 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 Bahena 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, Bahena Rivera allegedly admitted to having approached Tibbetts and then killing her in a panic, AP reported. After an 11-hour interrogation, Bahena Rivera 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.

Prosecutors presented forensic evidence and more than a dozen witnesses during the trial to try proving that Bahena Rivera had been the only person with Tibbetts the night she was killed, according to the Daily Beast. 

But the case also largely depends on Bahena Rivera’s confession from Aug. 20, 2018, which his lawyers argued was the result of exhaustion, persistent questioning by authorities, and his arrest, the Daily Beast reported.

“There’s no dispute that my client worked 12 hours at a dairy farm, scooping poop, cleaning down [the stalls], and at the end of the day he was brought to the Pow Co Sheriff’s Office,” Frese said, according to the Daily Beast.

Frese reportedly said Bahena Rivera spoke with police on several occasions throughout the investigation. Pamela Romero, who interviewed Bahena Rivera for 11 hours the day of his confession, said he “stayed and wanted to talk to me” and initially denied knowing Tibbetts.

Bahena Rivera was arrested by immigration officials six hours into the interview, and then several hours later, confessed to “blacking out” and killing Tibbetts, Frese reportedly said. 

Romero, who testified on Thursday, said Bahena Romero alleged that Tibbetts “tried to slap him and was screaming at him.” Bahena Rivera allegedly told Romero he became angry. 

“Mr. Rivera said this is when he became angry. He stated that when he gets angry, he usually blacks out,” Romero said, according to the Daily Beast.

Romero reportedly said that she asked Bahena Rivera how Tibbetts’ body felt as he was carrying her, and he responded that “it felt like a person who had just fainted.”

Frese argued that authorities were under “intense amount of pressure” to arrest a suspect in the case, and didn’t care about any issues with Bahena Rivera because “they got what they needed.”