"We want our Mollie back": Aunt of missing student makes heartfelt plea
The student, who has been described as athletic, was reported as missing by the Poweshiek County Sheriff's Office on July 20.
20-year-old University of Iowa student, Mollie Tibbetts, went for a jog in the evening on July 19 and Snapchatted with her boyfriend, who is her high school sweetheart, later that night. Pretty normal things for a student to be doing on a weeknight. She was also at her boyfriend's brother's home looking after the dogs while the brother and his fiancee were out of town. Living in a small town like Brooklyn, Iowa, with a population of 1,500 means that everyone knows everyone else and people who knew Tibbetts liked her a lot. So it wasn't odd that the engaged couple would ask this sweet girl to dogsit for them while they traveled. Things start to get murky after she spoke to her boyfriend that night.
Kim Calderwood, Tibbetts' aunt, told Newsweek on July 23 that there had been nobody else staying at the home that night. She said: "Mollie was staying the night there." The next morning, however, the university student did not show up for her camp counselor summer job that she had taken up. Calderwood, who works as a massage therapist at the same university that Tibbetts had enrolled in, said: "Starting Thursday night, people started looking around town."
The student, who has been described as athletic, was reported as missing by the Poweshiek County Sheriff's Office on July 20. According to their press release, the brunette student had last been seen on July 19 "possibly wearing denim shorts and a red T-shirt". Her aunt, however, had said that her niece had been seen digitally when she sent a Snapchat photo at around 10 p.m. the previous night.
Referring to Dalton Jack, Tibbetts' boyfriend who had been with her since high school, Calderwood said: "She had just sent a picture to [Dalton] to say 'Goodnight'". Jack had graduated school one year before Tibbetts had enrolled at the University of Iowa. The aunt added: "They are high school sweethearts and been together at least two years."
Ever since Tibbetts disappeared, the rural settlement of Brooklyn has looked for her day and night on the streets and in various farmhouses to try and "get Mollie back". Detectives searched Jack's brother's home and all they found was her identification and some other belongings of hers but the mobile phone was missing. Calderwood said: "We don't know where her phone is."
People who live in this rural farming community consider it to be relatively safe and feel like they don't need to even lock their doors. The aunt, who has moved there from California and who locks her doors out of habit said: "This is not a place where people lock their doors, for the most part." It is still unclear at this point if there was any foul play since not even a sign of forced entry was found at Jack's brother's home.
A page on Facebook titled "Finding Mollie Tibbetts" has popped up on the social media site and it has been dedicated to locating the young university student who had been studying to be a child psychologist one day. Calderwood said: "She loves kids and she’s very very good with kids." the devastated aunt also described her niece as being "smart and funny" and "a bit of a smart ass". Calderwood said that Tibbetts was also special and extremely selfless.
She said: "She's the kind of person who is there for anybody anytime and would be the first person to help anyone." Even though the family has not had much information coming their way from the Poweshiek County Sheriff’s Office, Calderwood applauded the efforts of the officers to try and find her niece. She said: "I know the investigators are doing everything they need to do to find her. The important thing is to stay out of the way and let them do what they need to do, and not be a hindrance."
Being patient, however, is slowly starting to take a toll on the family and they are quite honestly struggling to just sit and wait. Calderwood told Newsweek: "It’s hard. We want to grab them and ask ‘What’s going on?' But they can’t and they shouldn’t say too much, and you have to respect it." Tibbetts' worried aunt has made it clear that the word needs to get out and the family is making one thing clear - "We want our Mollie back."
Calderwood still holds on to the belief that her beloved niece will be found really soon and that she will be found safe as well. "We’re counting on it," said the aunt expressing hope for her niece's sake.
On Friday, a massive ground search involving more than 200 people broken up into 37 teams was conducted. The teams combed through the farmlands and fields within a five-mile radius of Brooklyn, with helicopters hovering above, according to authorities. Kayakers were also directed to sweep two small rivers for clues, and other area bodies of water were searched. Investigators have also been working to review Tibbetts’ digital footprint, including what is on her laptop and her social media activity, according to her family.
Poweshiek County Sheriff Thomas Kriegel, however, said that while their department is doing everything to locate the missing girl, he says his department is “preparing for the worst” and notes investigators have been handling the disappearance with the same vigilance as in a criminal case.