On Friday, a jury found Cristhian Bahena Rivera, a 26-year-old illegal immigrant from Mexico, guilty of first-degree murder in the 2018 death of then-University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbets.
Bahena Rivera will be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, according to the Associated Press. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for July 15. The jury’s unanimous verdict was handed down on Friday.
Tibbets vanished in July 2018 after she went out for a run. Iowa police later found and interviewed Bahena Rivera in connection with Tibbets’ disappearance after security footage placed his vehicle near her around the time of her disappearance, according to CNN.
At the time, Bahena Rivera said he remembered Tibbets, that he found her attractive but got angry and “blacked out” after she rejected his advances and threatened to call the police. He later woke up to find her body in his truck. He left Tibbets’ body in an Iowa cornfield where police later found and retrieved the body after Bahena Rivera took them to it.
During the trial, Former Iowa City Police Officer Pamela Romero testified that Bahena Rivera confessed to killing Tibbets during the investigation into Tibbets’ disappearance, then murder. Romero was brought in to help police during eh investigation because she is a native Spanish speaker and could communicate with Rivera.
Romero said that after Bahena Rivera brought police to Tibbets body and under questioning from the Romero, said he committed the crime: “He tells me ‘I brought you here, didn’t I? So that means I did it. I don’t know how I did it,’” according to KCRG.
Bahena Rivera’s defense team claimed that Bahena Rivera was coerced into killing Tibbets by two masked men that appeared in his trailer where he lived the day of Tibbets’ death. Bahena Rivera said the men were armed, one with a gun and the other with a knife, and posited that they killed Tibbets and stored her body in his trunk. After dumping her body in a cornfield, the masked men left Bahena Rivera and he never saw them again.
Bahena Rivera also attempted to pin the Tibbets’ murder on her boyfriend, Dalton Jack, KCRG reported. Jack testified during the trial and admitted to having anger issues and an affair while dating Tibbets, but police established that Jack was at work two hours away when Tibbets was killed. Police also discovered that Jack had purchased an engagement ring and had intended to propose to Tibbets.
Tibbets death made national news in 2018 as politicians such as then-President Donald Trump warned about the dangers of illegal immigration, which he sought to control by building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and strengthening immigration laws.
President Joe Biden has since blocked construction of Trump’s wall and overhauled the United States’ approach to illegal immigration, focusing on processing illegal immigrants and releasing them into the interior of the country rather than keeping them from entering through Trump’s “remain in Mexico” policy.
This article has been expanded after publication to include additional information.
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Author: Tim Pearce