The suspect in the murder of Iowa college student Mollie
Tibbetts is a 24-year-old illegal immigrant from Mexico who had
been living in the area for up to seven years, officials
Cristhian Bahena Rivera was apprehended more than a month after
the 20-year-old University of Iowa student disappeared, Rick
Rahn, special agent in charge with the Iowa Division of Criminal
Investigation, said during a news conference. Tibbetts was last
seen jogging on July 18 near Brooklyn, Iowa -- in Poweshiek
County, where Rivera lives.
A body believed to be Mollie Tibbetts was discovered earlier
Tuesday and Rivera led authorities to the location, Rahn said,
adding that her body was found hidden in a corn field beneath
several corn stalks.
Rivera was employed for the past four years at Yarrabee Farms, a
dairy farm, the company confirmed in a statement to The
Associated Press. The company said he was in good standing as a
worker and was shocked to learn of his alleged involvement in
Tibbetts' disappearance and murder.
The suspect told law enforcement he approached Tibbetts while
she was running, Rahn said.
“He actually tells us that he ran alongside of her or behind
her. And then at one point, he tells us that Mollie grabbed
ahold of her phone and says 'you need to leave me alone, I'm
gonna call the police,’” Rahn said of the interview. “And then
she took off running, he, in turn, chased her down. And then he
tells us that at some point in time he blacks out and then he
comes to near an intersection in which we believe he then placed
Rivera revealed to investigators that he became angry when
Tibbetts took out her cell phone, according to court documents
obtained by The Associated Press. He told authorities that he
panicked and “blocked” his memory.
The suspect claimed he didn’t remember what happened next but
later realized that he’d put Tibbetts’ in his trunk after
finding an earpiece from headphones in his lap, the documents
said. He opened the trunk and noticed blood on the side of her
Investigators said they believed the suspect had been in the
area for four to seven years.
“A first-degree murder charge was filed today in connection with
the disappearance of Mollie Tibbetts, who was last seen jogging
in Brooklyn, Iowa on July 18, 2018,” Rahn said. “A complaint and
affidavit names Cristhian Bahena Rivera, age 24, who resides in
rural Poweshiek County and he has been charged with murder in
the first degree.”
After Rivera’s arrest, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
“lodged a detainer with the Poweshiek County Sheriff’s Office”
on the suspect, who was described as “an illegal alien from
Mexico,” the agency confirmed.
With the help of surveillance video obtained from someone living
in the area, law enforcement was able to identify a vehicle
belonging to the suspect, Rahn said. Investigators saw Tibbetts
on the video and realized that Rivera “was one of the last ones
to see Mollie running,” Rahn added.