Cristhian Bahena Rivera, 26, found GUILTY in Mollie Tibbetts murder, may get life without parole

The formal sentencing of the convicted 26-year-old illegal Mexican immigrant Cristhian Bahena Rivera will take place on July 15


                            Cristhian Bahena Rivera, 26, found GUILTY in Mollie Tibbetts murder, may get life without parole
Cristhian Bahena Rivera was found guilty of murdering Mollie Tibbetts, a 20-year-old University of Iowa student (FBI/ Poweshiek County Sheriff's Office)
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SCOTT COUNTY, IOWA: The spine-chilling first-degree murder case of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts who was killed when she was out jogging is coming to a conclusion with Cristhian Bahena Rivera, unanimously convicted by jurors on Friday, May 28. The formal sentencing of the convicted 26-year-old illegal Mexican immigrant Rivera will take place on July 15.

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Cristhian Bahena Rivera, a farmworker, stayed mostly unphased during the court session wearing headphones where interpreters helped in translating the decision of the jury to him. The verdict was announced nearly three years after the fateful day when the body of Mollie Tibbetts was found. According to earlier reports, Rivera stated 'blacking out' during the incident. While Mollie Tibbetts was going for a run, he got angry at her and 'blacked out'. The next thing he remembered is discovering a bleeding Mollie Tibbetts in his vehicle's trunk and going to bury her in a remote Iowa cornfield. 

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Who killed Mollie Tibbets? Suspect Cristhian Bahena Rivera says 2 armed, masked men put her body in his car

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

Mollie Tibbetts and Cristhian Bahena Rivera. (Poweshiek County Emergency Services, FBI)

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Tibbetts family was 'relieved and pleased'

After Friday's verdict, Tibbett's family reportedly expressed being 'relieved' and 'pleased' with the decision. Prosecutor Scott Brown further stated, "The family, and other people that are that close to it, they live with it forever," and added, "We hope that in the end... when these cases are over, we can bring a sense of justice to them, even though we would never have the ability to bring Mollie back." Bahena Rivera's attorneys will proceed to appeal the verdict which is an automatic formality for anyone who has been convicted with murder in Iowa. 

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Defense attorney Chad Frese noted that they are going to appeal as he said, "Can we tell you who did this? No," He added, "We can tell you that getting to know Cristhian Bahena we are very surprised that he would be the kind of person to commit a crime like this. He is nothing but a soft-spoken, respectful, kind person." 

Rivera claims he was kidnapped

Rivera through translator has made a different claim, says a report. He has stated that two masked men kidnapped him and forced him to participate in the murder and threatened his family. Prosecutor Brown has dismissed the stance strictly saying, "There weren't two other guys. That's a figment of his imagination." He asserted, "All of the credible evidence in this case points at him."

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While the case comes closer to the sentencing date, defense attorney claimed that the prosecution neither had an eye-witness or a murder weapon, no crime scene or scientific evidence to back their accusations on Rivera. Rivera's statements were taken under extreme duress, as Frese claimed, "We think Cristhian's 'confession,' or statement, was inaccurate or false."

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Prosecution's claims and evidence

The prosecution mainly proceeded with Rivera based on the surveillance video acquired from Rivera's vehicle near Tibbetts, his statements to investigators back in August 2018, and most importantly, the matching DNA samples of Tibbetts found in Rivera's trunk. In 2018, Poweshiek County Attorney Bart Klaver had stated, "When you put this evidence together, there can be no other conclusion than that the defendant killed Mollie Tibbetts." 

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Rivera's contradicting claims including he blacked out after getting angry and he was kidnapped by two masked men didn't help his case as the defense attorney earlier stated, "It's like trying to prove there's not a Santa Claus. We don't know who those persons could be. Remember our client was out in the middle of a very rural location. We tried to link it up as best we could with people who could have some kind of motive, but that's very difficult to establish."

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