BROOKLYN, Iowa – The Chevy Malibu that investigators linked to
Cristhian Rivera, the illegal immigrant suspected of killing
Iowa college student Mollie Tibbetts, was not registered in
Rivera's name, a law enforcement source revealed to Fox News on
Police said Tuesday that the Malibu, which was caught on
surveillence footage in Brooklyn, Iowa, was driving back and
forth in the area where Tibbetts, a 20-year-old University of
Iowa student, was running in the "late afternoon hours of July
18," the day she went missing.
"We were able to, first of all, see what we believed to have
been Mollie running on one of the streets," Iowa Division of
Criminal Investigation special agent Rick Rahn told Fox News.
"From that, we started to look into all the vehicles that were
also captured on video and eventually identified the vehicle
that was driven by Mr. Rivera."
The surveillance footage in which the Malibu was seen was not
able to capture the vehicle's license plates, but there were
"unusual markings" on the car which helped lead investigators
track it down, Rahn told said.
The special agent said there were "some distinct features to the
vehicle that allowed us to basically search the area for it and
just happened that we were able to locate the vehicle, and
subsequently identify Mr. Rivera driving the vehicle."
The footage was provided by a resident. It clearly showed
Tibbetts running, and also had a clear shot of the Malibu
driving back and forth, Rahn told Fox News. The video was
"critical" and allowed authorities to zero in on the 24-year-old
Rivera, Rahn added.
Rivera was charged with first-degree murder on Tuesday in
Tibbetts' death, and was being held Wednesday on a $5 million
cash-only bond. During his first court appearance Wednesday
afternoon, Rivera looked stoic and refused to speak when given
the chance. Rahn said authorities believe this was a
While investigators earlier had looked into the area where
Tibbetts' body was ultimately discovered — a cornfield roughly
12 miles southeast of Brooklyn — Rahn said detectives wouldn't
have seen the woman's body even if they were relatively close,
as it was covered in cornstalks.
He wouldn't detail what led investigators to the Deep River Area
where Tibbetts' body was found, but stressed that they "focused
hard on her digital footprint."
Investigators said they were working to determine whether Rivera
acted alone. They said that other charges may be filed against
Rivera if evidence shows that sexual assault or other crimes
were committed against Tibbetts.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents said that
Rivera, of Mexico, has been in the U.S. illegally for four to
Yarrabee Farms, which had hired Rivera, initially said he passed
a federal E-Verify check, which is intended to maintain a
database of I-9 forms and tax records of employees across the
country. On Wednesday, however, co-owner and manager Dane Lang
said that the farm used a different program that a family member
wrongly thought was E-Verify. The farm used Social Security
Administration data in the vetting process, Lang said.
Lang added that Rivera provided a state-issued photo ID and
social security card.
“We learned that our employee was not who he said he is," Lang
told reporters on Wednesday, and noted that his coworkers knew
him by a different name, but recognized him after seeing media
reports about his arrest.
A spokesperson with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
said in a statement that, "A search of records by USCIS revealed
Rivera did not make any DACA requests nor were any grants given.
We have found no record in our systems indicating he has any
Despite what federal officials have stated about Rivera's status
in the U.S., his lawyer said the suspect worked legally in the
Attorney Allen Richards alleged that the government was saying
falsely that Rivera was not in Iowa legally, in a court document
through which he asked for a gag order on the case, the Des
Moines Register reported.
A judge denied Richards' gag order request.