Mollie Tibbetts: Murder charge filed in the case of missing University of Iowa student

Body believed to be Mollie Tibbetts, report says
Posted at 9:08 AM, Aug 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-21 18:51:08-04

An undocumented immigrant has been charged with first-degree murder in the presumed death of Mollie Tibbetts, an Iowa college student who went missing on July 18, officials said Tuesday.

The suspect on Tuesday led authorities to a body officials believe is that of Tibbetts, 20, said Rick Rahn, special agent in charge at the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.

Investigators based their preliminary identification on clothing found with the body and on an interview with the suspect, officials said.

An autopsy to determine when and how the woman died is planned for Wednesday.

Authorities said surveillance video helped them determine a suspect.

The suspect, Cristhian Bahena Rivera, 24, is an undocumented immigrant who authorities believe has been in the area for four to seven years, Rahn said. Charges were filed in the district court in Poweshiek County and bail was set at $1 million.


"I can't really speak to you about the motive," Rahn said. "I can just tell you it seems that he followed her and seemed to be drawn to her on that particular day and for whatever reason he chose to abduct her."

Authorities said the suspect followed Tibbetts on July 18 and then abducted her.

According to court documents, the suspect said in an interview that Tibbetts pulled out her cell phone and told Rivera she was going to "call the police" and that caused him to get angry.

He said he blacked out and woke up at an intersection in rural Poweshiek County, court documents say.

Rahn said the suspect told investigators he realized he had put the woman in the trunk of his car and when he took her out, he saw blood on the side of her head, the document says. He left the body in a cornfield and covered it with corn leaves, it adds.

Shawn Neudauer, a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said the agency on Tuesday sent a detainer request to local authorities for Rivera, who is from Mexico.

Rahn said Tibbetts' digital footprint, which included data from a fitness tracker known as a Fitbit, played a role in solving the case.

Tibbetts' father, Rob Tibbetts, when reached earlier Tuesday, had no comment.

Tibbetts, a University of Iowa student, was last seen jogging on July 18 in the small community of Brooklyn, Iowa, about an hour east of Des Moines, according to the Poweshiek County Sheriff's Office.

Before she went missing, Tibbetts' brother dropped her off at her boyfriend's house so she could dog-sit, HLN reported. Her family reported her missing after she did not show up for work the next day.

Investigators launched an extensive search for Tibbetts across the area, including in ponds, fields and from the air.

Rahn said last week that authorities had received more than 1,500 tips and conducted more than 500 interviews in the case.

Tibbetts was studying psychology at the University of Iowa and wanted to get a doctorate and write books, her father said.