A 20-year-old University of Iowa student was missing for several weeks and her family, friends and police were desperately searching for her. Mollie Tibbetts, a college student from Brooklyn, Iowa, was last seen on Wednesday, July 18, while going for a run in her hometown. Tibbetts messaged her boyfriend later that night, but has not been seen or heard from since. She was staying at her boyfriend’s brother’s house in Brooklyn.
Mollie Tibbetts’ body has now been found, and she is dead, according to Fox News, which broke the sad news on August 21, 2018. You can read about that report here.
“Everything’s on the table, unfortunately,” Poweshiek County Sheriff Thomas Kriegel told KCCI-TV on July 21. More than 100 people have been interviewed, but no suspects have been identified and police have still not determined if she was abducted.
“At this point, we don’t know her exact whereabouts but we continue to look. We are hopeful that she is still alive and so we will continue to think that way until told otherwise,” Richard Rahn, special agent in charge of the Iowa Department of Public Safety’s Division of Criminal Investigation, told ABC News. “We’re doing everything we can to locate her and track her down.”
Kriegel told People, “Everything and everybody” is under review. “We still haven’t found her and to be honest with you, we don’t know what happened to her.”
Her family said she would never go off the grid and run away. “No, absolutely not. Mollie would never run off. I last spoke with her at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday night about what was for dinner. I told her brats. She said, ‘ok,'” her mother, Laura Calderwood, told KWWL-TV. Her aunt, Kim Calderwood, told the Des Moines Register, “It’s frustrating; it’s powerless. We’re racking our brains, thinking what can we think of to tell the investigators. It’s the worst thing … to want to fix something you can’t fix.”
Brooklyn is a city of about 1,400 people in eastern Iowa, located midway between Des Moines and Cedar Rapids. The community has rallied around Tibbetts’ family as the search continued into the weekend, posting signs and handing out flyers throughout the area. “A daughter to anybody in this community is a daughter to everybody. We all hope the same effort would be made toward our own children,” town resident Joy Vanlandschoot, who has helped with the efforts, told the Register.
Her family was still keeping hope on July 23, but her mother told ABC News it has been “excruciating” not knowing where she is. “She is just such an outgoing, fun, loving life, loving person,” her mother said. “She was getting ready to move into her first apartment.”
Laura Calderwood told The Gazette they have “no idea what happened to her.” She added that her daughter had been her normal “full of life” self in the days before vanishing. “It’s impossible for me to imagine. I can’t even begin to speculate about what might have happened. It’s very difficult, and right now we’re just playing the waiting game and waiting to see what the police find out,” she told the newspaper. “It is not at all like her to run off or disappear. This is completely out of character for her.”
The search entered a sixth day on July 24, but the sheriff’s office said they are working hard, but have no new updates. “As frustrating as that feels, it is just part of how such investigations work,” the sheriff’s office told KCRG-TV.
On July 25, the seventh day of the search and investigation, police said they were still treating the case as a missing persons investigation, but said abduction had not been ruled out. Investigators were able to obtain Fitbit data from Tibbetts’ device, and said that information would likely be useful, but did not provide any other details, according to KCRG-TV.
On July 26, police searched a hog farm in Guernsey, Iowa, and other areas surrounding Brooklyn, but did not find anything of evidentiary value, according to KCRG.
Tibbetts is 5’3″ tall and weighs 120 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes. She was possibly wearing running clothes, like gym shorts, running shoes and a sports bra or high school athletic T-shirt, or could be in her work clothes, denim shorts and a red T-shirt.
The Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation is also assisting in the investigation. Several other local agencies are also involved and the FBI has also joined the investigation and search, the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reports.
The FBI and DCI were in Brooklyn on July 24 to reexamine the areas where the search for Tibbetts began, while also going through her online and cell phone history. Anyone with information is asked to call the Poweshiek County Sheriff’s Office, at 641-623-5679.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Mollie Tibbetts Was Dog-Sitting at Her Boyfriend’s Brother’s House & Possibly Returned There After a Jog to Work on Homework on Her Computer, Her Family Says
Mollie Cecelia Tibbetts was at her boyfriend’s brother’s house in Brooklyn, Iowa, when she went missing, according to posts from family members on a Facebook page set up to help in the search, “Finding Mollie Tibbetts.” Her boyfriend of more than two years, Dalton Jack, her boyfriend’s brother, Blake and her boyfriend’s brother’s fiancee, Allie Houghton, were out of town. and Tibbetts was dog-sitting their two dogs, her family says. Dalton Jack, who was in Dubuque, Iowa, about two hours away, for work, told ABC News that Tibbetts sent him a routine Snapchat photo to say good night about 10 p.m. on July 18. Dalton Jack, Mollie Tibbett’s boyfriend, works with his brother at his construction company, Jack Building & Design. Blake Jack and Allie Houghton have been helping in the search.
“Please help us bring Mollie home. Any and all information is useful! Please share and let’s see how far we can reach out,” Allie Houghton wrote on Facebook. They had been out of town since Monday, July 16.
Police told KCRG-TV that her boyfriend has been ruled out as a suspect.
Tibbetts had last been seen by a neighbor earlier that evening while running in Brooklyn. While many media reports have called her a missing jogger or runner, and have said she disappeared on the run, the circumstances surrounding her disappearance are not clear. While Tibbetts was not seen after the run, she did talk to her mother and her boyfriend in the hours after it. Police do not know when she vanished, or if she went for a pre-work run in the morning on July 19.
“She might have a FitBit on and she might have her cellphone, but obviously we’ve tried just calling her but it’s either off or dead so it would go straight to voicemail,” Jack told ABC News.
“She goes for a run every night. She likes to go whenever the sun’s not down, but it’s starting cool off, like 6 or 7. She knows Brooklyn extremely well, better than I do and I’ve lived here my entire life,” he told the news station. “She is kind, sweet, caring, she’ll do anything for everybody.”
Tibbetts’ family members told KCCI-TV that she was doing homework on her computer late in the evening of July 18, the news station reports. Police told the family that she was working on the computer, but did not provide a specific time, saying it could hinder the investigation.
Her cousin, Emily Heaston, said police searched the home where Tibbetts had been staying. “Everything is right where she left it. Wallet, laptop, everything else was all right where she last placed it,” Heaston told KWQC-TV.
Heaston said Tibbetts had been looking forward to her second year of college and has a trip planned for next week. “Mollie had just been asking me this week for furniture for her apartment at school for the upcoming academic year. She had a trip planned to the Dominican Republic for next week,” Heaston, who said she is “like a sister” to Tibbetts, told the news station. She added, “I’m trying not to imagine the worst, but I’m so scared that someone took her.”
Tibbetts’ mother told ABC News that her daughter and her boyfriend’s trip to the Dominican Republic is for his brother’s wedding. “She and her boyfriend Dalton were getting ready to go to the Dominican Republic on August 2nd to attend Dalton’s brother’s wedding,” Laura Calderwood told ABC News. “As that date gets closer, it’s like closing in on me, because I’m thinking about these two people that are getting married that were also really close to Mollie. [It’s] supposed to be the happiest day of their life.”
Heaston told the Des Moines Register, “We’re worried sick and desperate to get Mollie home.” On Facebook, Heaston wrote that any tip could be helpful.
“There is no such thing as a silly tip or lead,” Heaston wrote. “We do not want any information or offers of help to slip through the cracks. We cannot share Mollie’s image or story too much. Thank you to all of the volunteers and the Brooklyn community for your endless love and support.”
Tibbetts’ mother told KWWL-TV that her daughter has never gone missing in the past and wasn’t acting strange in the days leading up to her disappearance.
Sheriff Thomas Kriegel told ABC News, “We’ve had missing persons before, but usually we find them the same day or a couple days later. We never had one this long that I can recall.”
The T.I.P Rural Electric Cooperative in Brooklyn is offering a $1,000 reward, while Iowa CrimeStoppers is offering an additional $1,000, the Des Moines Register reports. The reward is offered for information that leads to an arrest or conviction in Tibbetts’ disappearance, the newspaper reports. Police have not confirmed that there is any wrongdoing in the case, and have been treating it as a missing persons investigation. But authorities have said that an abduction remains a possibility and becomes more likely as time goes on.
2. Her Family Reported Her Missing After She Didn’t Go to Work at a Day Camp on the Morning of July 19 & Stopped Responding to Messages
Mollie Tibbetts’ family reported her missing on Thursday, July 19, after she didn’t show up for work and was not responding to calls and messages. Her phone was going straight to voicemail, he family said. Tibbetts works as a day camp intern at Grinnell Regional Medical Center, according to her Facebook page. While her family originally thought she went missing Wednesday night, they now think she might have disappeared Thursday.
“Possibly she went missing the next morning. She works for the day care and they were going to the fair Thursday and were all supposed to wear red shirts,” her mother, Laura Calderwood, told KWWL-TV. “And we can’t find that red shirt Mollie was supposed to wear that morning anywhere.”
Tibbets’ car is at her mother’s house, according to her family. She shares the car with her brother, and he texted her Thursday morning to see if she needed a ride to work or to use the car, and she never responded. Police told KCRG-TV that her brothers have been ruled out as suspects.
Dalton Jack, her boyfriend, also said he knew there was an issue Thursday morning. “I was the one who threw red flags,” Jack told KCRG-TV. “She hadn’t called in. I looked at my phone and noticed I texted her good morning that morning and she hadn’t looked at it so I got ahold of her friends and family.”
Her aunt, Kim Calderwood, said there is a misconception about when Tibbetts went missing because she was last seen on a run. “That she was out running when it happened, that’s not a correct timeline,” she told KCRG. “The run happened and then she was at the house as far as we know. I don’t think she would’ve run in the dark.”
Jack received the Snapchat from Tibbetts about 10 p.m. Wednesday. “Just a selfie with a caption like any other normal snapchat, but the background looked like she was indoors,” he said.
Her co-worker and friend, Emily Fenner, told CrimeOnline, “She’s an incredibly responsible, intelligent person. When she didn’t come to work on Thursday & didn’t call in I proceeded to get ahold of her boyfriend, who was in Dubuque for work & hadn’t heard from her either. That’s when we got the ball rolling & called authorities.”
Fenner added, “She’s an avid runner and usually goes in the evening once it cools off. At first we thought maybe something happened to her while on a run, but because the day camp shirt she was supposed to wear on Thursday is missing, now they’re thinking maybe something happened Thursday morning. So basically she’s probably either in running tights & sports bra or a red short & denim shorts.”
Kriegel told Inside Edition, “We don’t know when she disappeared. We don’t know if she disappeared out jogging, we don’t know if she disappeared from her home. That’s the thing that’s got us baffled right now.”
3. Authorities Are Re-Searching Areas Around Brooklyn & Have Obtained FitBit Data
The FBI has joined the investigation along with state and local authorities. In the most recent development, authorities said they obtained FitBit data from Tibbetts’ device. Her boyfriend, Dalton Jack, has said that Tibbetts, an avid runner, wore the FitBit all the time. A FitBit is a wearable activity tracker that uses wireless technology to measure data like the number of steps walked, heart rate, sleep quality, steps climbed and other fitness metrics. The FitBit also could have the ability to track location using GPS.
Authorities have said they are examining Tibbetts’ devices, including the FitBit and her phone, along with her social media, email accounts and other digital activity. Mitch Mortvedt, assistant director of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, said that they were able to obtain data from the FitBit that will be useful to the investigation, but did not provide details about that data, according to the Des Moines Register.
“We are getting a lot of information back from that process. We are very hopeful with the electronic data we are getting back,” he told the newspaper. “We are relying on the FBI heavily because it’s an ever-changing world in technology. He added that with each day that passes, an abduction becomes a larger possibility, telling the newspaper, “We haven’t ruled anything out, but it’s been a week so it’s more and more suspicious to us.”
Mortvedt told CNN about the use of the FitBit data, “This is a new arena for us. That’s part of the reason we called the FBI in. It’s probably pretty new to them, too. I don’t know of another case here in Iowa where we have used specifically Fitbit info.”
He told ABC News, “For a 20-year-old to go missing and completely kind of fall off the grid as far as social media, cell phone, banking activity, that kind of thing — it’s obviously a very suspicious and very serious matter. “She’s very well-connected through social media, cellphone, exercise equipment, so we are trying to use that, obviously, to our advantage to gain any information that we can.”
Poweshiek County Sheriff Thomas Kriegel told ABC News, “We do believe that there’s going to be some useful information [from the Fitbit data] but [we are] not willing to share that.”
Investigators have returned to areas searched by volunteers on the days right after Tibbetts was reported missing to more expertly comb the area. Those areas include cornfields. A hog farm in Guernsey, Iowa, about 15 minutes from Brooklyn, according to KCRG-TV. Authorities also searched several other places in Poweshiek County, but those searches and the farm search have not yielded any results, the news station reports.
Mortveldt, of the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation, told the Des MoineS Register that forensic experts from the FBI and DCI are combing areas she frequently runs to look for evidence. “She is a creature of habit and went the same routes, so we’re going back and covering those areas and interviewing people again,” Mortvedt told the newspaper.
The rural area has made the search more difficult. Sheriff Kriegel told ABC News, “We’re surrounded by farm ground: corn and soybeans. Right now the corn is probably eight, nine feet tall. The only way you can search it is basically walk down every other row. It’s difficult. Even the planes flying over have a difficulty looking down in the corn rows.”
Police are also looking at any surveillance video around Brooklyn that they can find. The FBI has sent as many as 15 agents to assist in the search. “In my morning brief this morning, I have been told there’s more on the way,” Tibbetts’ mother, Laura Calderwood, told CNN.
Police and community members scoured the neighborhood around her boyfriend’s brother’s house in Brooklyn and the surrounding area, along with running routes she has taken, in the days after she went missing. A ground search has been called off since Friday night as other angles are investigated. Poweshiek County Sheriff Tom Kriegel told Tibbetts’ family they are “confident that every home in Brooklyn has been visited. Every farm building, barn and shed in the area has been searched.”
Kriegel told ABC News that the rural area has made the search difficult, “We’re surrounded by farm ground — corn and soy beans. Right now the corn is probably eight, nine feet tall. The only way you can search it is basically walk down every other row. It’s difficult. Even the planes flying over have a difficulty looking down in the corn rows.”
Tibbetts’ mother told ABC News the situation has “completely upended the entire community.”
Emily Heaston, Tibbetts’ cousin, wrote on Facebook that one of the reasons the ground search was halted was because the entire community was taking part, making it hard for police to talk to possible witnesses. “Law enforcement will also be repeating the neighborhood canvas near Mollie’s home, jogging, and work routes. The entire community was taking part in the ground search over the last two days, so many neighbors were not at their homes at the time of the first neighborhood canvas,” she wrote on Facebook. “The important part of ceasing the ground search is that those residents are home and available to speak with law enforcement.”
Heaston said police are also looking through her electronic, social media and online footprint, a process she called “slow and frustrating,” but the most likely hope of finding Tibbetts.
“Investigators are hoping to expedite the imaging of Mollie’s laptop today, and get warrants out to Google and her social media accounts. The University of Iowa is extremely cooperative in those efforts as well. Any K-12 accounts or any old or unused log-ins will also be thoroughly searched. If you know of any such accounts, please notify the Poweshiek County Sheriff, Tom Kriegel, as your first point of contact. Law enforcement cannot risk compromising or being locked out of any of Mollie’s accounts that might have her electronic footprint,” Heaston wrote on Facebook on Saturday. “County, state and federal bureaus are using every resource and working together around the clock to bring Mollie home. We have to trust their expertise. Local agencies had just completed search training and a federal audit of local search efforts describe the investigation as rock solid.”
She added, “Sheriff Kriegel is confident that every home in Brooklyn has been visited. Every farm building, barn and shed in the area has been searched. FLIR did not detect any heat signatures in the area. Helicopter and drone searches do not indicate that any fields in the area have been disturbed or damaged.”
The sheriff’s office said the investigation is “ongoing and active.” Authorities have not said if foul play is suspected.
4. Tibbetts, Described by Family as a ‘Fighter’ Who Is ‘Very Responsible & Conscientious,’ Just Completed Her Freshman Year at the University of Iowa, Where She Is Studying Psychology
Mollie Tibbetts’ aunt, Kim Calderwood, told the Des Moines Register that she remains hopeful because she knows her niece. “She’s strong and sassy and a fighter and stubborn and she is not a quitter,” Calderwood told the newspaper.
She added she is a “a “beautiful, positive girl.” Tibbetts graduated from Brooklyn, Guernsey, and Malcom High School in 2017, according to her Facebook page. Her aunt told the Register that Tibbetts was on the debate team, ran track and was involved in her local Catholic church, St. Bridget Church.
Calderwood told WOI-TV, “This is not like her at all. She’s a very responsible and conscientious young woman.”
Laura Calderwood told The Gazette her daughter loved life at school, “She’s very intelligent and she loved college and really enjoyed studying. She loves life and lives it to the fullest. She is very happy and social, she loved to sing and perform and she loves caring for the kids at the day care where she works.
Tibbetts recently finished her freshman year at the University of Iowa, where she is studying psychology. Her Twitter, Instagram and Facebook pages are filled with smiling photos with friends and her boyfriend, Dalton Jack, who she has been dating for more than two years.
Tibbetts’ mother, Laura Calderwood, lives in Iowa, while her father, Robert Tibbetts, lives in Oakland, California. A family member posted on Facebook that Mollie had recently returned home from a visit with her family in California. She has two brothers, Jake and Scott and is the middle child in her family.
“It’s exhausting, I don’t know where she is, I don’t know if she’s safe,” Tibbett’s mother Laura Calderwood told KGO-TV. Mollie spent some of her childhood living in the Bay Area, where her father still lives. Her father is in Iowa helping in the search, KGO reports.
5. Missing Posters, Photos & Information About Tibbetts Have Been Shared Thousands of Times on Social Media & Tibbetts’ Family Said in a Message to Her, ‘We’re Looking for You & We Will Never Stop’
Family, friends, community members, strangers online and police have been working to share information about Mollie Tibbetts. Along with flyers posted in the Brooklyn, Iowa, area, the missing posters have been shared thousands of times online.
“On behalf of all of us who are Mollie’s family, I want to thank you all for your help, sharing, ideas and prayers. Your love and energy have been nothing short of miraculous to see,” Sandi Tibbetts Murphy wrote on on the “Finding Mollie Tibbetts” Facebook page. “As you know, we have several investigators helping us try to find our girl. These folks are experts at their jobs and we have faith in all their efforts and decisions. As we get updates from the investigation team, please know that we will share what we can. I know it can be frustrating not to have new information – we feel that too. But we need to balance the needs and integrity of the investigation against the public nature of this group. We ask for your understanding and patience.”
The search has also spread to southern Utah, where the Iron County Sheriff’s Office sent out a message saying that Tibbetts has family in the area. The sheriff’s office said they don’t know if she is in Utah and have no leads to indicate that, but shared the missing poster in case anyone spotted her because of her family connections. News organizations in the Oakland area have also put out alerts about Tibbetts because of her family and friends there.
The University of Iowa said in a statement, “Our thoughts are with Mollie Tibbetts’ family and friends. The University of Iowa is monitoring the situation and will offer support as needed.”
“We’re a close-knit community and I couldn’t even imagine this happening to one of my kids. We love Mollie. They’re family and we look after each other,” Carla Kriegel told the Globe Gazette.
Mollie Tibbetts’ aunt, Kim Calderwood, had a message for her niece, telling WOI-TV, “We miss you, we’re looking for you and we will never stop.”
Her mother, Laura Calderwood, told The Gazette, “I just hope we find her safe and well. We just want her to come home”
A GoFundMe has been set up to help Tibbetts’ family as they search for the missing University of Iowa student. Only one fundraising campaign has been authenticated by the family. Donations can be made here.
Nick Barry, who set up the campaign, said in a video explaining what the money will be used for, “Most of us can only imagine the devastation the family is going through right now and work is simply out of the question as they monitor phone calls and do everything they can to bring their little girl home. The friends of the family have put together this GoFundMe page to help alleviate some of the financial burden, because the bills do still come in. And it’s a way that we as a family can help them through this tough time right now.”
He added, “It doesn’t have to be much. $10 to $20 can go a long way and if you’re not in a financial position to give anything, a 30-second prayer is just as important to us. We also want to use this format to get the word out from coast-to-coast to keep our eyes and ears open to help Mollie and bring her home. … On behalf of the family and the entire town of Iowa, because they are one big family, thank you.”
Tibbett’s family and friends have spread the message far and wide on the internet, with many celebrities helping by sharing the missing poster. Anyone with information is asked to call the Poweshiek County Sheriff’s Office, at 641-623-5679.