POWWESHIEK COUNTY, Iowa – A man has been charged with 1st degree murder in the disappearance and death of Mollie Tibbetts.
The arrest of Cristhian Bahena Rivera, 24, was announced Tuesday by the Iowa Department of Public Safety. Rivera is identified as an illiegal immigrant and is being held on $1 million cash only bond.
Mollie Tibbetts, 20 of Brooklyn, was reported missing on July 19. Video footage collected by authorities of that evening showed Tibbetts running near the area of Boundary and Middle streets in her home town when a dark-colored Chevy Malibu was in the same area. Law enforcement says they connected that Malibu to Rivera and he was questioned on Monday.
According to court documents, Rivera admitted to driving after a female who was running in Brooklyn, then getting out of his car and running alongside and after her. Authorities say Rivera told them the woman grabbed her phone and said “I’m gonna call the police,” at which point Rivera says he got panicked and mad.
Rivera told authorities he blocks things from his memory when he gets mad and doesn’t remember anything after that until he was driving and came to an intersection. Rivera says he then drove to a cornfield and noticed an ear piece from headphones in his lap. Court documents state that’s when Rivera realized he had put Tibbetts in his trunk.
Authorities say Rivera removed Tibbetts from his trunk and noticed she had blood on the side of her head. Rivera is then reported to have told law enforcement he dragged Tibbetts to a secluded spot in the corn field and left her there, face up and covered with some corn leaves.
Law enforcement says Rivera guided them back to the location by memory and that’s where they located the dead body of a female.
Based on clothing found at the scene, where the body was located, and a tentative identification by the medical examiner, authorities say the body is that of Mollie Tibbetts.
“Our hearts go out to the Tibbetts family and to the Brooklyn community. It is a loss for all of us,” says Poweshiek County Sheriff Tom Kriegel. “We appreciate the support for law enforcement community in their commitment to this investigation, and we thank the Brooklyn community for their support for the investigation.”
The Division of Criminal Investigation received more than 4,000 tips during the investigation.
“We regularly had 30-40 investigators devoted to this investigation since Molly disappeared,” says DCI Special Agent in Charge Richard Rahn. “Without that kind of support from our fellow law enforcement officers, we could not have made the progress we did. The Poweshiek County Sheriff and the Federal Bureau of Investigation were valued partners in leading the investigation, and many other agencies contributed resources throughout the past five weeks. We thank the Tibbetts family for their support to us, and we hope that they will continue to have the support of their community and the nation in the coming weeks and months.”
Gov. Kim Reynolds issued the following statement Tuesday on Mollie Tibbetts:
“Today, our state woke up to heart-wrenching news. As a mother, I can’t imagine the sorrow felt by the Tibbetts family. We are all suffering over the death of Mollie, knowing that it could have been our own daughter, sister or friend.
“I spoke with Mollie’s family and passed on the heartfelt condolences of a grieving state. I shared with them my hope that they can find comfort knowing that God does not leave us to suffer alone. Even in our darkest moments, He will comfort and heal our broken hearts.
“I want to recognize and thank our local, state and federal law enforcement community for their coordinated and tireless efforts to find Mollie.
“Over the past month, thousands of Iowans searched and prayed for Mollie’s safe return. Now, we are called to come together once again to lift up a grieving family. The search for Mollie is over, but the demand for justice has just begun.
“As Iowans, we are heartbroken, and we are angry. We are angry that a broken immigration system allowed a predator like this to live in our community, and we will do all we can bring justice to Mollie’s killer.”
Fred Hubbell, Democratic nominee for Iowa governor, released the following statement:
“This is truly heartbreaking. For Mollie’s parents, her family and friends, any words today will be of little comfort. As a parent and grandparent your worst nightmare is losing your child. I know this must be an unimaginable loss. Please know our family and Iowans everywhere share your grief and are united in pursuit of justice. I want to commend our law enforcement officials who worked around the clock to investigate this crime. In this state, if you break the law, you will face the consequences.”
Iowa's U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst released the following statement:
“We are deeply saddened that this bright, young woman’s life was cut short. Our heart goes out to the family and friends of Mollie Tibbetts. No family should ever have to endure such a tragedy, especially one that could have been prevented. We are thankful for the hard work of Governor Kim Reynolds and federal, state and local law enforcement as they continue to find answers for Mollie’s family and the American public and bring the killer to justice. As Governor Reynolds said, ‘our immigration system allowed a predator like this to live in our community.’ Too many Iowans have been lost at the hands of criminals who broke our immigration laws. We cannot allow these tragedies to continue,”