Suspect Charged with 1st-Degree Murder in Mollie Tibbetts Disappearance, Official ID Pending

August 21, 2018 10:17 PM

Authorities say a first-degree murder charge is filed against a 24-year-old in the disappearance of Mollie Tibbetts, though the body is not officially identified yet.

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According to ABC News, Tibbetts was last seen jogging in Brooklyn, Iowa, on July 18, 2018.  A complaint and affidavit names Cristhian Bahena Rivera, who resides in rural Poweshiek County, in the charge of murder in the first degree. 

Poweshiek County Sheriff Tom Kriegel said Rivera is an illegal immigrant. He had allegedly been living in the area for 4 to 7 years. Bail has been set for $1 million dollars.

Dozens of law enforcement officials from local, state and federal agencies were involved in the investigation after the disappearance of Tibbetts. A body was discovered in the early morning hours of Tuesday, in a farm field southeast of Brooklyn, Iowa. The identity has not been confirmed, but it is believed to be Tibbetts.

According to the criminal complaint, shortly after Tibbetts went missing, video footage was collected from an area on the east side of Brooklyn, Iowa. The video was from the evening of July 18, 2018. After review of the video by officials, it was determined that Tibbetts was running near the area of Boundary and Middle Streets when a dark-colored Chevy Malibu was in the same vicinity. The vehicle can be seen numerous times driving back and forth in the area. Investigations determined the vehicle belonged to Rivera, and he was then questioned by law enforcement about the disappearance of Tibbetts on Tuesday.

The complaint states Rivera admitted to making contact with Tibbetts, pursuing her with his vehicle. Tibbetts allegedly told Rivera to "leave her alone" and "I'm gonna call the police." Rivera told officers he then panicked, got mad and that he then "blocked" his "memory" which is what he supposedly does when he gets very upset and doesn't remember anything afterwards until he approached an intersection.

Rivera said after he took a U-turn at the intersection, he noticed there was an earpiece from headphones in his lap and that is allegedly when he realized he put her in the trunk. According to the complaint, he then pulled over to get the victim out of the trunk. When he saw her, he told police he noticed blood on the side of her head. Rivera then allegedly took her out to a cornfield, putting her on his shoulder and walking out 20 meters deep into the field. He then laid her down and covered her in corn stalks, and went back towards Brooklyn. Rivera led law enforcement to the area he allegedly remembered, and that is where officials discovered the deceased female.

According to ABC, charges were filed in the Poweshiek County, Iowa, District Court. The case will be prosecuted by the Iowa Attorney General's Area Prosecution Division.  First-degree murder carries a penalty of life without parole. 

"Our hearts go out to the Tibbetts family and to the Brooklyn community. It is a loss for all of us," said 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," said 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."

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds issued the following statement Tuesday on 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.
 

Stay with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS and KSTP.com as we follow this story. Refresh your page to make sure you are seeing the most current information.

RELATED: Officials Believe Body of Iowa Student Mollie Tibbetts Found

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Theresa Malloy & Tommy Wiita.

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