Cristhian Rivera, the suspect under arrest in the Mollie Tibbetts’ death, was in the United States illegally, authorities claimed in a press conference. He is a Mexican national.
However, the issue became confusing and complicated when Rivera’s lawyer claimed in court that he’s actually in the country legally.
Cristhian Bahena Rivera is “subject to immigration detainer,” The Washington Post reported. Although the suspect’s name was widely reported as Christian Rivera, court records give his first name’s spelling as Cristhian.
“We have confirmed with Homeland Security that…he is an illegal alien,” authorities said during the news conference of the suspect, Cristhian Rivera, 24, who resides in rural Poweshiek County, Iowa. They said that Christian Rivera had been in the area for four to seven years. He was charged with an accusation of first-degree murder.
On his Facebook page, where Rivera wrote that he was from Guayabillo, Guerrero, Mexico, he posted a photo of guns:
He also filled the page with selfies and indicated in one comment thread that he was in Iowa. He and Mollie had a mutual friend on Facebook.
Authorities said that Rivera allegedly confessed that he “seized Mollie running.” Authorities alleged that he told them he “ran alongside of her or behind her” and Mollie said she was going to call the police and took off running, but he allegedly chased her down. According to authorities, Rivera led them to Mollie’s body. Authorities said Cristhian Rivera was working in the community but weren’t more specific. They said he largely kept to himself.
He was in Iowa working on a dairy farm and living in a farmhouse with other migrant workers, Daily Mail reports. It turns out that the farm, Yarrabee, is owned by a prominent GOP official named Craig Lang. Yarrabee issued a statement saying that it had submitted Rivera’s information to E-Verify, a federal website used to verify employee’s immigration status.
“Yarrabee Farms follows all laws related to verifying employees are legal to work in the United States, and we regularly seek outside counsel to ensure we stay up-to-date on employment law matters,” the farm’s statement read.
However, according to The Des Moines Register, the day after that statement, “officials from the farm acknowledged they did not use the E-Verify system and that Rivera gave them false information.” Federal authorities then told USA Today that there was “no record in our systems indicating he has any lawful immigration status.”
The company now says that Rivera may have given them a false name so they can’t be sure whether he was legally in the country after all. They said he presented a social security card and state issued photo ID card but that they earned the “employee was not who he said he was. And just within the last four hours, we have come to learn the SSN verification service is not the same as E-verify.”
Here’s Rivera’s lawyer’s request for a gag order in the case:
Meanwhile, authorities painted a very disturbing picture of Mollie’s last moments.
“He followed her around, circled around a couple times, located her, and then began to interface with her,” authorities said.
Authorities said the break in the case came when they found an individual who had security cameras and were able to identify a black vehicle that they believed belonged to Rivera. Authorities said they tracked the patterns and routes that Rivera allegedly took with the vehicle. They also found images of Mollie running on this video. When interviewed, the suspect also claimed he blacked out and awoke in the area where Mollie was found, authorities revealed. Authorities did not release specifically how Tibbetts was murdered but said an autopsy will be conducted. Mollie was found in a cornfield with cornstalks placed over her, authorities said.
Nick Miroff, national security reporter for The Washington Post, tweeted out the breaking news shortly before authorities confirmed the immigration angle in a news conference. He covers immigration. “SCOOP: Iowa investigators have made arrest in Mollie Tibbetts murder, and the suspect has a fed immigration detainer, meaning likely in the country illegally,” Miroff wrote.
The Washington Post story by Cleve R. Wootson Jr. also reported the information, adding, “Iowa state investigators said Tuesday they have a suspect in custody who is subject to a federal immigration detainer, typically an indication that the person is present in the United States illegally.”
Authorities revealed the details on the crime in a 4 p.m. press conference. You can watch the press conference here. Authorities had earlier confirmed that they recovered a body in a rural area of Poweshiek County. That county is where Brooklyn, Iowa is located. Tibbetts, a college student whose disappearance sparked national attention, disappeared while dog sitting in a home in Brooklyn, Iowa.
Law Enforcement Activity Focused on Fields Near Guernsey, Iowa
The news that Mollie Tibbetts’ body was found broke on the morning of August 21, 2018. KCRG-TV and other news outlets reported that Mollie’s body was found in rural Poweshiek County. Poweshiek County is the county that includes Brooklyn, where Mollie was staying when she vanished. It was soon clear that law enforcement activity was focused on a rural area of farm fields near a wildlife area and the small communities of Guernsey and Deep River, Iowa.
The specific location where law enforcement efforts focused was near Highway 21, reports indicated. That spot is about 12 miles from Brooklyn.
According to WHO-TV, the location was previously searched. Radar Online reported there was a law enforcement search “deep in farmland” on August 20.
According to a KCCI-TV live report, there was law enforcement activity underway in a location south of Guernsey, Iowa, and a medical examiner’s van had driven to that spot. The television station reported that the location was about 15 minutes south of Brooklyn, just off Highway 21 on 460th Avenue. There was a detour put up around 5 a.m. this morning, according to locals, the television station reported.
You can watch video from the scene of that search above. Here’s a map of the FAA flight restricted area in rural Iowa:
A KCCI-TV reporter then posted that she was going to an area in southeast Guernsey:
She reported seeing many police barricades. Other reporters were also at the locations.
According to KCCI, the location was just a few miles from Guernsey and Deep River, which are both extremely small communities in rural Iowa. It’s an area that includes several farms and a wildlife area, and the authorities were working at a location with a gravel road.
Authorities did confirm early on they had found a body, but they didn’t say it was Mollie until the news conference:
Mollie’s body was found on August 21, 2018, reports said.
Previously, authorities had released a website that asked the public for information about various locations in connection with Mollie’s disappearance.
That website, titled Finding Mollie, said, “On Wednesday, July 18, 2018, Mollie Tibbetts was last seen jogging in Brooklyn, Iowa in the evening hours. There have been no credible sightings of, or communications with, Mollie since that time. Law enforcement is currently seeking additional witnesses and wants to speak to anyone who was in the areas indicated below on July 18, 2018 between the hours of 5PM and 10PM.” It’s not clear, though, what information led authorities to the body after so much time searching. Authorities have not yet announced any suspects.
The law enforcement website had indicated authorities were interested in Mollie’s “boyfriend’s home in Brooklyn, a car wash, a truck stop, a farm more than three miles from downtown Brooklyn, and another farm more than six miles away,” according to CBS News.
The FBI had previously said it was believed Mollie was with someone she knew but never gave information to the public on any suspect or person of interest.
The Search for Mollie Spanned More Than a Month
Mollie’s disappearance sparked national attention and a desperate search by her family after she was last seen jogging while house sitting dogs at a home in rural Brooklyn, Iowa. However, her distraught father had just announced that he was returning to his home in California after a month of searching for Mollie.
Authorities didn’t reveal much information over the past month, although a local pig farmer, Wayne Cheney, did tell the news media he was interviewed but was never named as a suspect. He also said that he took a polygraph test, and a local pig farm was previously searched. Cheney lives only a few miles from the Poweshiek County spot where the body was reportedly found, according to online records.
The college student had seemed to vanish without any trace, although other reports said that she had done homework on her computer after going for a jog and that there appeared to be no signs of a struggle. It was said that she had left her glasses and contacts behind and Fox News previously reported that a red shirt was located, although it was unclear whether it was Mollie’s and the report was not confirmed by authorities.
She had a boyfriend, Dalton Jack, but Dalton was reportedly out of town when Mollie disappeared. Her mother and siblings live in Iowa. Police have released no information on a suspect or on whether the cause of death is murder. They were reportedly checking Mollie’s fitbit. It was clear early on, though, that authorities were focusing their efforts in the farming area near the spot where Mollie’s body appears to have been discovered.