Mollie Tibbetts murder: Cristhian Bahena Rivera was arrested after cops scoured hours of surveillance footage

Mollie Tibbetts murder: Cristhian Bahena Rivera was arrested after cops scoured hours of surveillance footage
Cristhian Bahena Rivera (R) is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Mollie Tibbetts (Poweshiek County Emergency Services, FBI)

BROOKLYN, IOWA: The trial for the man accused of stabbing Mollie Tibbetts, 20, to death and dumping her body in a cornfield in 2018 began on Monday, May 17.

Cristhian Bahena Rivera, 26, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Tibbetts, who went missing while jogging in Brooklyn, Iowa, on July 18, 2018. Her remains were discovered a month later.


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According to investigators, Rivera saw Tibbetts running and began running alongside her. When she threatened to call police, Rivera reportedly "got mad" and "blocked" his "memory." He told the authorities that the next thing he remembered was finding an "earpiece from headphones in his lap" and realizing that "he had placed Tibbetts in his vehicle," KCCI reported.


Rivera then drove out to into a cornfield and dumped Tibbetts' body there, per court documents. After scouring hours of surveillance footage, investigators were led to Rivera, who subsequently brought them to Tibbetts' remains.

Other suspects eliminated

Detectives monitored and scrutinized a number of potential suspects during their five-week search before arresting Rivera. These included a neighbor seen washing his SUV a couple of hours after Tibbetts disappeared, a Nebraska man who abandoned his vehicle in Iowa days later, as well as an acquaintance of Tibbetts who told law enforcement he had recently "wiped" his cellphone data. Furthermore, investigators also probed an Iowa farmer who had a history of stalking women. Besides, he reportedly lived 200 yards from where Tibbetts' cellphone went out of network coverage. 


Eventually, however, all additional persons of interest were eliminated as suspects.

Pretrial proceedings 

In August 2019, Rivera's lawyers filed a motion to suppress information gathered by police during their investigation. According to them, the state had violated Rivera's Miranda rights and some of the information gathered, therefore, should not be used during court proceedings.


Per court documents, "Officer Romero, who did not have access to a Miranda card and instead gave the warning extemporaneously, did not warn the Defendant that anything he said could be used against him in court."

In October that year, the state agreed that some statements by Rivera could not be used in court. However, it maintained that Rivera's statements were voluntary and that his rights were not violated. According to court documents, the state also noted that despite the interrogation extending into the next day, there were several breaks, food provided, and "numerous opportunities for the Defendant to leave."


The judge is hosting a motion to suppress hearing at the Poweshiek County Courthouse from Tuesday through Thursday, according to KCCI.

Incriminating statements

Rivera made several incriminating statements during his interview with police. "When I get mad, it's like ... like, I'm another person," he told investigators at some point. 

During the interview, Rivera's attitude reportedly shifted from one of denial to one of not recollecting what happened. It wasn't long before the suspect said he thought it was "possible" he could have hurt Tibbetts.


Rivera eventually admitted that he had been on a gravel road in Malcom, Iowa, at 4 am on the fateful day (confirmed to be the time of the murder). He said he also remembered using a vacuum to clean his car after Tibbetts disappeared.

Rivera then said he remembered "fighting" with Mollie, putting her in his vehicle, and noticing blood. "I remember that we were in the corn... I remember that's where I put her," Rivera told Officer Romero.


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