Police in Iowa held a press conference to provide new information on the disappearance of University of Iowa college student Mollie Tibbetts. The 20-year-old vanished from her Brooklyn, Iowa, hometown on July 18. Tibbetts was found dead in a rural part of Poweshiek County on August 21.
A suspect has been arrested and charged with murder. He has been identified as 24-year-old Cristhian Bahena Rivera, who is originally from Mexico and is in the country illegally, according to police. You can read more about him here.
You can watch video of the press conference below:
Tibbetts was last seen the evening of July 18 when she went for a run in her hometown of Brooklyn, Iowa. She had been staying at her boyfriend’s brother’s house, where she was dog-sitting while her boyfriend, Dalton Jack, his brother and his brother’s fiancee were out of town, according to police and her family. She texted her mother that night and sent Jack a Snapchat message, but was not heard from again. When she didn’t show up for work at a day camp on July 19, she was reported missing. Local authorities from the Poweshiek County Sheriff’s Office were soon joined in the search by the Iowa Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the FBI.
Brooklyn is a city of about 1,400 people in eastern Iowa, located midway between Des Moines and Cedar Rapids. The community rallied around the Tibbetts family as the search for Mollie stretched to over a month. Tibbetts spent part of her childhood in the Oakland, California, area, where her father still lives, and then moved to her mother’s native Iowa along with her two brothers. She graduated from Brooklyn-Guernsey-Malcom High School in 2017 and was about to enter her sophomore year at the University of Iowa, where she was studying psychology.
ibbetts’ body was found in Powieshiek County, Iowa, according to Fox News.
Her body was located in a rural part of Powieshiek County, about 12 miles away from her hometown of Brooklyn. The body was found on 460th Avenue off Highway 21, southeast of Brooklyn, between Guernsey and Deep River. Police blocked off a gravel road in an area near five farms. The road had been closed since at least 5 a.m. local time, farmers told KCCI-TV.
The state medical examiner’s office arrived at the scene about 10 a.m., the news station reports.
During the month that Tibbetts was missing, police followed several leads and searched many location around Brooklyn. The rural area made the search more difficult, authorities said.
Powieshiek County 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 searched a pig farm in Guernsey, Iowa, multiple times and interviewed a man who was connected to the farm. The man took a polygraph test as part of the investigation, but was eventually cleared.
In the days before Tibbetts’ body was found, police had narrowed the search to five locations in the Brooklyn area, including a car wash, a commercial strip and a truck stop, according to Fox News. It is not clear why police focused on those areas.
More than $400,000 in reward money was raised for information leading to Mollie Tibbetts being found as the case captured the hearts and minds of people all across the country. Greg Willey, the vice president of Crime Stoppers of Central Iowa, told The Associated Press the money would be used to catch and convict a suspect or suspects in Tibbetts’ death. It is not clear if any of the reward money has been claimed as a result of the discovery of Tibbetts’ body and the arrest of a suspect.
Police were inundated with tips throughout the investigation and set up a website, findingmollie.iowa.gov, because of the extensive interest in the case.
Her disappearance rattled the small town of Brooklyn.
“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.
“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 Des Moines Register.