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ONE YEAR AGO TODAY: Mollie Tibbetts’ body found in rural Poweshiek County

POWESHIEK COUNTY, Iowa (KWWL) – Today marks one year since Mollie Tibbetts’ body was found.

The 20-year-old was last seen on a jog on July 18, 2018. She was going to begin her second year at the University of Iowa.

She never returned to her hometown of Brooklyn.

For 34 days, the community searched for the missing woman, making posters, t-shirts and buttons with her name and picture. People from around the country prayed for her return.

Investigators launched an intensive search for Tibbetts across the area, including searches in ponds, fields and from the air. The FBI and Iowa Department of Criminal Investigations were involved.

On August 21, 2018, investigators found Tibbetts’ body in a cornfield near 460th Avenue in rural Poweshiek County, about 15 minutes from her home.

They said 25-year-old Cristhian Bahena Rivera, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, led them to her body. Authorities used nearby surveillance video to identify him.

During the investigation, Rivera admitted to police he had seen Mollie before July 18. He told investigators he seized her while she was running, even jogging alongside her at one point.

Rivera said Tibbetts threatened to call police. He then chased her down. He said he blacked out and came to while driving and realized Tibbetts was in his trunk when he saw her headphones in his lap. He also said he noticed blood on her head when he removed her from the trunk.

He directed investigators by memory to Tibbetts’ body. He said he carried her on foot and covered her with corn stalks.

Autopsy results revealed Tibbetts died from multiple injuries resulting in sharp force.

Rivera is charged with first-degree murder. He has pleaded not guilty. If convicted, he could face life in prison.

In early August, Rivera’s attorneys filed to stop his initial comments to police from being used as evidence. They claim investigators mishandled his first interrogation and his confession should be thrown away. 

When the interrogation began, officers told Rivera he was free to leave if he didn’t want to talk. Attorneys suggest he was in custodial interrogation and should have been read his Miranda Rights. However, he wasn’t Mirandized until several hours later.

In a two-day hearing scheduled for October 22 and 23, a judge will decide if Rivera’s rights were violated.

Court documents also show the state of Iowa paid $12,845 in interpreter fees for Rivera. The state made the payment to a Missouri-based interpreter company.

On Friday, August 23, Rivera and his attorneys will appear in court to discuss his right to a trial within one year.

Rivera’s trial is set for November 12 in Sioux City. It was moved out of Poweshiek County due to pretrial publicity.

Olivia Schmitt

Weekend Anchor

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