Man arrested, charged with murder of Mollie Tibbetts

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A man has been charged with the murder of 20-year-old Iowa college student Mollie Tibbetts.

In a press conference Tuesday, officials said Cristhian Rivera, 24, of rural Poweshiek County, has been charged with first-degree murder, which carries a maximum penalty of life without parole.

Investigators said Rivera admitted that he was involved in Tibbetts’ disappearance. 

Law enforcement used video footage from the east side of Brooklyn to determine that Tibbettes, 20, was running near the area of Boundary and Middle Streets on July 18 when a dark-colored Chevy Malibu was seen in the same area, according to court documents.

The vehicle was connected to Rivera, so law enforcement questioned him on August 20. 

Court documents indicate that Rivera admitted to following Tibbets in his vehicle to an area east of Brooklyn on July 18. Officials say that this was on 385th Avenue.

He then parked his car and ran alongside her. He said that she grabbed her phone and said, “I’m gonna call the police”, according to court documents. 

The arrest affidavit indicates Rivera told investigators that he panicked, got mad and then “blocked his memory.” He said that’s what happens when he gets upset and can’t remember what happened.

He later said that he parked in a driveway in a cornfield. Rivera allegedly told investigators he noticed an ear piece from headphones in his lap, then remembered that he had Tibbetts’ body in the trunk. 

According to the affidavit, Rivera dragged Tibbetts body into the cornfield before leaving her there with corn leaves covering her body. 

Rivera led law enforcement to the location of the body as well as describing what she was wearing the night Tibbetts disappeared. During the press conference, officials said her body was found at 460th Avenue.

Officials also said at the press conference that Rivera is an undocumented alien who has lived in the area of rural Poweshiek County for between four and seven years. 

“Our hearts go out to the Tibbetts family and to the Brooklyn community.  It is a loss for all of us,” said Poweshiek County Sheriff Tom Kriegel.  “We appreciate the support of the law enforcement community in their commitment to this investigation, and we thank the Brooklyn community for their support for the investigation.”

The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation said they received more that 4,000 tips and that were was about 30 to 40 investigators devoted to the investigation.

“Without that kind of support from our fellow law enforcement officers, we could not have made the progress we did,” DCI Special Agent in Charge Richard Rahn said. “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.

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