Mollie Tibbetts' father tells community to "turn towards life" during his daughter's funeral mass on Sunday afternoon
The bereaved father of murdered Iowa college student Mollie Tibbetts told mourners at her funeral on Sunday that she was his hero and that Mollie was nobody's victim.
Family, friends, and residents of Mollie Tibbetts' hometown Brooklyn, Iowa, gathered Sunday afternoon to pay their respects after a month-long search for the 20-year-old ended in despair. Mollie's father, Rob Tibbetts, her cousin, and one of her teachers spoke at the service while Bishop Thomas Zinkula of Davenport, Iowa, led the funeral.
During his daughter's funeral mass, Rob told members of the small community to "turn toward the light". Mollie's disappearance caught the nation's attention and one of its highlights was the importance of a strong immigration system. Addressing a crowd of hundreds who had gathered at the gymnasium at BGM High School, where Mollie had graduated just last year, Rob said, "This community needs to heal."
"Today, we need to turn the page," he said, according to the Des Moines Register. "We're at the end of a long ordeal, but we need to turn toward life — Mollie’s life — because Mollie's nobody's victim. Mollie’s my hero.”
On August 21, the 20-year-old student from the University of Iowa was found dead in a cornfield by investigators who were led to the scene by farmworker Cristhian Bahena Rivera. Rivera, who is just 24, has now been charged with first-degree murder in Tibbetts' death. According to authorities, the immigrant had been living in Iowa illegally for the past 4-7 years.
The father of the deceased thanked law enforcement officers and volunteers who helped in the search for his daughter during his eulogy on Sunday. He also thanked the media and said they provided at least 400,000 tips about the possible whereabouts of Mollie, reported Fox News. "You want to know why there's been such an outpouring?" Rob asked. "It's because we see ourselves in Mollie."
He wanted the town to move past the incident and thus stressed on the theme of "turning the page". One of the couples attending the service had just tied the knot, and so Rob asked them to stand for a round of applause.
"That felt good," he said. "That's what Mollie would have done."
BGM's football team had won its first game of the season Friday night, with Scott Tibbetts, Mollie's younger brother, throwing for two touchdown passes and then running for another during the bout. Rob asked for another round of applause for the home team. Having said that, Jake Tibbetts, another one of Mollie brothers, recounted memories of his sister. He said Mollie was always a uniter and constantly worked to bring together people who had differences.
Jake said he had come up with his speech just 20 minutes before the service. "You've seen how hard Mollie is working upstairs in heaven," he said.
Morgan Collum, a cousin of Mollie's, remembered her as a girl who loved "a good Spotify playlist" and spaghetti. She urged those who attended to follow her steps and work for the good of people. "Do right by her and share what strengths you have," Collum said. "Please don't be mad at God ... praise God for his perfect creation."