DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWWL) -- The state has made its case for a first-degree murder charge against Cristhian Bahena Rivera in the 2018 killing of 20-year-old college student Mollie Tibbetts.
The day wrapped up with testimony on autopsy results by Dr. Dennis Klein, the state medical examiner, and an Iowa forensic anthropologist who spoke to "sharp force" injuries shown on Mollie's bones.
“I found 9 definitive wounds. I suspect up to 12,” Dr. Klein said.
Klein noted Tibbetts' body was found in a "moderate to severe" state of decomposition when she was found in late August of 2018. Humid weather, rain, bacteria and insect activity all contributed to its state which Dr. Heather Garvin, the forensic anthropologist who examined Mollie's skeletal wounds, characterized as being "mummified."
Evidence shows the attack on Tibbetts' was violent, with damage to her upper spine and torso, but its unclear which wound was fatal. It's also undetermined which direction the attack came from, whether that be the front or from behind.
Dr. Klein said more than one of the major arteries can be found in the part of the neck where Mollie was injured with what was likely a "single edge" knife.
A murder weapon has never been recovered by investigators, despite agents searching Rivera's home and vehicles.
Chad Frese, Rivera's defense attorney, grilled the case's lead investigator earlier in the day. An agent for the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation, Trent Vileta, spoke in detail as to their investigative efforts. At one point, Vileta said they "had no reason" to search the home of Mollie's then-boyfriend Dalton Jack, for a weapon because Rivera had led them to her body.
In an attempt to sow doubt, Frese raised a number of names of persons of interest to Vileta, asking how and why they were investigated. He asked about a man whose home was near where Mollie was found. Investigators were told that man was rumored to have a "torture room" in his home. Vileta said authorities found no such room or evidence connecting him to Mollie.
"It puts the knife in his hand?" Frese asked of the evidence collected against Rivera.
"It puts her blood and DNA in the trunk of his car," Vileta responded.
Frese agreed that meant she was in the trunk but it didn't definitively show that Rivera stabbed Mollie.
Prosecutor Scott Brown, Iowa Assistant Attorney General, fired back that no other suspect had given investigators the location of Mollie's body, admitted to encountering her that evening, or her blood in the trunk of a car. Brown argued that evidence indicates Rivera's guilt in her death.
This didn't stop the defense from making a motion outside the presence of the jury to acquit Rivera, saying the state had not provided enough evidence to convict him of first or second degree murder. They're stance focused on Rivera's admission that he blacked out between encountering Mollie on her jog and placing her body in a corn field.
The judged denied their motion.
"Mollie Tibbetts had probably the nicest text messages we'd ever read."DCI Special Agent Trent Vileta
The day began with Vileta speaking to the efforts by the DCI and FBI to locate Mollie through her phone. With data from it and her "Fitbit," investigators found a likely jogging route which they searched extensively, including pulling video from home security surveillance.
“The footage on Logan Collins' cameras really broke open the case for us," Vileta said.
Logan Collins, a resident of Brooklyn, provided investigators with footage from his 4 home security cameras. It was in that footage that authorities believe they saw Tibbetts running as it was on her regular route. Rivera's Black Malibu was also seen on that footage, identifiable by a number of custom modifications on the vehicle.
The trial resumes Tuesday morning at 8:30 a.m. with the defense expected to present its case to the jury.
The jury, selected May 18th, consists of eight women and seven men. There are 12 jurors and three alternates. Of the 15, 12 are white and the remaining three are Hispanic or Latino. During jury selection, jurors were asked if they would be able to set aside any prejudices based on Rivera's race or undocumented status.