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MOLLIE TIBBETTS


Mollie Tibbetts’ Accused Killer: Armed, Masked Men Put Her Body in My Trunk

YouTubeMollie Tibbetts’ accused killer took the stand on his own behalf Wednesday, sharing a dramatic story with jurors about how he was kidnapped by two armed, masked men and ordered to track down the University of Iowa student before one of them murdered her.Testifying through a translator, Cristian Bahena Rivera, a 26-year-old Mexican national who came to the U.S. illegally to work at an Iowa dairy farm, claimed that the two men ambushed him inside his trailer on July 18, 2018—and forced him to drive them around until they located Tibbetts.Eventually, one of the men, armed with a knife, got out of the car and disappeared for at least 10 minutes, he testified. When the man returned, he asked Bahena Rivera to drive another “300 meters” before telling him to stop and hand over his keys.“I just heard a movement in the car and then that the trunk closed,” Bahena Rivera told jurors in Scott County Court during his first-degree murder trial. He said that he drove the men until they reached a white house, where they again took his keys and phone and told him to wait a few minutes before he was free to go.Investigators Told Mollie Tibbetts’ Accused Killer He ‘Blacked Out’: Defense“Before they leave one of them tells me not to say anything about what had happened,” Bahena said, adding that the men said they “knew” about his daughter and ex-girlfriend. “I got out of the car because I did not have my keys. Obviously, I knew there was something in the trunk because previously I had felt when they had placed when they had put something in the trunk.”Bahena Rivera said that when he opened the trunk and saw Tibbetts’ body, he panicked and decided to move her “very heavy” remains to a cornfield.“I picked her up and then I put her in the cornfield,” he said, adding that he covered her with corn stalks “because I didn’t want to leave her...I didn’t want her to be too exposed to the sun.”“I left her exactly how she was in the trunk,” he added.The dairy farm worker added that he didn’t immediately go to the police about the horrific ordeal, because he was “scared” that he would be implicated in the crime.At trial, prosecutors have argued that Bahena Rivera stabbed Tibbetts at least seven times on July 18, 2018, near the Brooklyn, Iowa, home where she was staying.About a month later, the young woman’s body was found when Bahena Rivera directed authorities to the cornfield where he said he hid her—after an 11-hour interrogation and a visit from federal immigration authorities.Bahena Rivera’s defense team has argued that investigators coerced a confession out of their client, leading him to believe he had “blacked out” when he stabbed Tibbetts. Defense attorney Jennifer Frese said the confession was the result of Bahena Rivera’s exhaustion after a 12-hour shift at the dairy farm, relentless questions from authorities who refused to let him see his family, and his arrest for being undocumented.Pamela Romero, a former Iowa police officer, testified last Thursday that when she interviewed Bahena Rivera on Aug. 20, 2018, he “wanted to talk to me” and eventually acknowledged that video footage showed his black Chevy Malibu circling her as she was running.Several hours later—after he was arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement—he confessed to “blacking out” and murdering Tibbetts, Romero said.Mollie Tibbetts’ Killer Recalled ‘Covering Her With Corn Stalks,’ Prosecutor Says in Trial Opening“He said that Mollie tried to slap him and was screaming at him,” Romero testified. “Mr. Rivera said this is when he became angry. He stated that when he gets angry, he usually blacks out.”But Bahena Rivera insisted Wednesday that he actually lied to Romero and the other investigators, and never said a word about the armed men he claims surprised him at his apartment, warning him he “shouldn’t do anything stupid.”He said that police eventually told him they had evidence his phone was with Tibbetts’ phone, and that her hair was found in his car. As the questions began to mount, Bahena Rivera told jurors he felt pressure to agree with authorities.“If I helped them, if I told them what they wanted to hear, that they would help me,” he said after he was asked what he thought Romero meant when she told him in the interview to “help himself.”Bahena Rivera said that after hours of questions, he relented and agreed to take investigators to the spot where he hid Tibbetts’ body.“For one, I was already very tired and I wanted to stop. And most importantly they told me to put myself in the family's position and to think about if she was my daughter, what would I have done,” he said.During cross-examination, prosecutors grilled Bahena Rivera about his sudden reversal, getting the farmhand to admit he told Romero he was angry at Tibbetts.“You were given an opportunity in the presence of law enforcement to tell what you’ve told us here today..and you chose not to do that,” Brown said.Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

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Former Iowa Cop Grilled Over Mollie Tibbetts Killer’s Confession

YouTubeA former Iowa police officer who interviewed Cristhian Bahena Rivera and was present when he confessed to killing Mollie Tibbetts was grilled on the stand this week by defense attorneys, who argued the Mexican national only copped to the crime after hours of interrogation and a visit from federal immigration authorities.Pamela Romero, a three-year veteran of the Iowa City Police Department, spent two days on the stand during Bahena Rivera’s murder trial in Scotty County Courthouse, describing for jurors how she interrogated the 26-year-old for 11 hours in August 2018 in connection with Tibbetts’ murder.During the August 20, 2018 interview, Romero said the local farmhand confessed to her in Spanish that he killed Tibbetts—a 20-year-old University of Iowa student who vanished on July 18, 2019, while on a run near her home—and then dumped her body in a cornfield.“I went to ask him, 'Mr. Rivera, please, just let me know, give me more details: How she got into the car, what happened to her, what did you do to her,’” Romero testified Thursday. “His answer was, ‘I brought you here, didn’t I? So that means that I did it? I don’t remember how I did it.’”Mollie Tibbetts’ Killer Recalled ‘Covering Her With Corn Stalks,’ Prosecutor Says in Trial OpeningBut defense attorneys went on to grill Romero, who now works at a turkey processing factory in Iowa, on her interrogation techniques during the interview, which is the crux of the prosecution’s case, arguing that Bahena Rivera was sleep deprived and anxious after being arrested for his illegal immigration status.Defense attorney Jennifer Frese played a portion of video footage from Bahena Rivera’s interrogation, in which he can be seen rubbing his face and leaning over the table to try to sleep when officers were not in the room. Several times, Bahena Rivera asked whether an immigration officer would arrest him.Frese says that her client was eventually arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement at 11 p.m., about six hours into his interview. Several hours after that, he confessed to “blacking out” and murdering Tibbetts.“Do you understand the position that sometimes people will say things that they didn’t really do?" Frese said Friday. Romero responded that she didn’t believe the confession was forced.Ahead of the trial, defense attorneys tried to get Bahena Rivera’s confession tossed out of court, arguing it may have been false. District Court Judge Joel Yates denied that request but agreed to remove a portion of the interview footage in which Bahena Rivera was improperly informed of his rights.“I told him he was free to go whenever he wanted, but he stayed and wanted to talk to me,” Romero insisted Thursday.Bahena Rivera, who’s remained emotionless throughout Romero’s testimony, has been charged with first-degree murder for allegedly stabbing Tibbetts at least seven times on July 18, 2018. Tibbetts’ body was finally found in the early morning of August 21, 2018, after Bahena Rivera directed Romero and other authorities to the cornfield where he allegedly hid her.Prosecutors have argued that on July 18, video surveillance footage from a neighbor showed Bahena Rivera’s black Chevy Malibu appearing to circle Tibbetts as she was running. The footage marked a major break in the case after a more than month-long search for the young woman.Romero said that during the Aug. 20 interview, the farmhand initially denied knowing Tibbetts but admitted the car in the footage was his.“Mr. Rivera told me he had no idea who she was and that he had never seen her,” Romero said. “I pulled out one of the posters that had Mollie’s face… and he looked at her, and said, ‘I have seen them around town,' and he remembered seeing Mollie’s boyfriend at one of the local gas stations.”Eventually, Romero said that Bahena Rivera admitted to seeing Tibbetts running around town at least three times and conceded that she’d once waved to him as he drove by. Hours later, Bahena Rivera took several officers to a nearby cornfield and confessed he’d killed her, she said.She Was Raped, Strangled, Set Alight in a Field. Cops Say They’ve Found Her Killer.Bahena Rivera told Romero he had parked his car and started jogging toward Tibbetts, which made her uncomfortable, so she attempted to call the police, the officer told jurors Thursday.“He said that Mollie tried to slap him and was screaming at him,” Romero testified. “Mr. Rivera said this is when he became angry. He stated that when he gets angry, he usually blacks out.”Romero said that the next thing Romero remembered was driving his car with Tibbetts’ body in his truck and her headphones on his lap. Bahena Rivera then told her that he brought Tibbetts to a cornfield and dumped her body.“At one point I asked him, ‘Was it the head, was it the forehead?’ and with a hand motion he showed the neck,” Romero said. “I asked him how her body felt against his body when he was carrying her, and he said it felt like a person who had just fainted.”Romero admitted that Bahena Rivera said he didn’t remember what weapon he used to kill her. The Iowa State Medical Examiner has ruled Tibbetts’ death a “homicide resulting from multiple sharp force injuries.” Prosecutors on Wednesday said that evidence suggests Bahena Rivera stabbed her seven to 12 times before dumping her body. The murder weapon has never been found.Iowa Department of Public Safety crime scene tech Amy Johnson told jurors on Friday that when investigators finally found Tibbetts’ body about 400 feet from the road, her black running shorts and underwear were found several feet away. Romero said Friday that she was not aware of any sexual assault allegations against Bahena Rivera.“I would say we had a very pleasant conversation,” Romero said Friday about the interrogation.Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

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Mollie Tibbetts’ Killer Recalled ‘Covering Her With Corn Stalks,’ Prosecutor Says in Trial Opening

Reuters/Iowa Department of Criminal InvestigationsNearly three years after University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts vanished while on an evening run near her home, a local farmhand is on trial for allegedly murdering the 20-year-old before her dumping in a cornfield.“He admitted he had seen Mollie the night she disappeared...he admitted ‘she was hot,’ in his words,” Poweshiek County Attorney Bart Klaver told jurors in Scott County Courthouse on Wednesday. “He admitted to fighting with her…[and] taking her into the field and leaving her there, covering her with corn stalks.”Cristian Bahena Rivera, a 26-year-old Mexican national who came to the U.S. illegally and worked at an Iowa dairy farm, has been charged with first-degree murder. Prosecutors allege he stabbed Tibbetts at least seven times on July 18, 2018, near the Brooklyn, Iowa home where she was staying. After a relentless state-wide search for Tibbetts that sparked national attention, her body was found on Aug. 21, 2018, about 15 minutes from her home. Bahena Rivera had directed authorities to the cornfield where he hid her.“Mollie Tibbetts. This case is her story. This case is the story of Molly's disappearance, and the story of Mollie's murder,” Klaver said.The high-profile and political nature of the case prompted authorities to move the trial to another county to ensure impartiality. But swirling questions remain into whether Bahena Rivera’s rights were violated during the investigation because of his undocumented status.In March 2019, Bahena Rivera claimed he was not informed of his right to an attorney or his right not to cooperate before a 12-hour police interview. He has maintained his innocence despite previously confessing during another interview, implying he was coerced. He has pleaded not guilty and his defense team deferred its opening statement on Wednesday until the state rests its case.Prosecutors insisted on Wednesday that video evidence, DNA analysis, and Bahena Rivera’s “partial confession” prove that the farmhand is Tibbetts’ killer. Walking jurors through the crime, Klaver explained how Tibbetts, a psychology major, was house-sitting for her boyfriend and his brother that summer. Blake Jack, the brother of Tibbetts’ boyfriend, testified Wednesday that Tibbetts was at the house to watch the dogs while he and his brother were away at work.The night of July 18, prosecutors said, video surveillance from a neighbor showed Bahena Rivera’s black Chevy Malibu appearing to circle Tibbetts as she ran one of the normal routes she carved out over her ears as an “avid runner.” Bahena Rivera later told police that he drove past her but turned around because she was attractive.Prosecutors said Bahena Rivera admitted that he got out of his car to run behind Tibbetts—and became angry when she threatened to call the police on him for harassing her. Klaver said that in a police interview, Bahena Rivera insisted he “blacked out” and that the next thing he knew, he was driving his car with Tibbetts’ body in his truck and her headphone on his lap.White House Uses White Woman’s Murder to Whip Up Anti-Immigrant SentimentThe Iowa State Medical Examiner later ruled Tibbetts' death a “homicide resulting from multiple sharp force injuries.” Klaver said on Wednesday that evidence suggests Bahena Rivera stabbed her 7 to 12 times before eventually dumping her underneath some corn stalks.Dalton Jack, Tibbetts’ boyfriend, testified Wednesday that the last communication he had with her was a July 18 Snapchat he opened the next morning. On July 19, Jack said that he received a call from one of her co-workers saying that she hadn’t shown up for work. Jack said he called his brother Blake for help, who eventually called the police after conferring with neighbors and Tibbetts’ friends.After a fruitless search for Tibbetts for over a month, investigators got a break in the case when they identified Bahena Rivera’s Chevy with non-standard rims and a chrome handle as the car in the surveillance video, Klaver said Wednesday. On Aug. 20, Bahena Rivera agreed to be questioned by the police, and he admitted to seeing Tibbetts.The next day, prosecutors said, Bahena Rivera admitted to the murder.“Ladies and gentlemen, when you examine this evidence together, there can be no other conclusion than the defendant killed Mollie Tibbetts,” Klaver said. “And I’ll ask you to return a verdict, the only verdict that justice demands, that you find the defendant guilty of murder in the first degree.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

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