Search for Mollie Tibbetts comes to tragic end

Cristhian Rivera is led out of a Poweshiek County Courtroom after his initial appearance on August 22 (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette/Pool).

By Charlie Comfort

News Editor


Brooklyn, Iowa- The July 18 disappearance and subsequent search for Mollie Tibbetts has captured the hearts of Iowans, and a nation as a whole, as everyone followed along, hoping for positive news. However, those hopes were shattered on the morning of August 21 when national media outlets began to report the worst: Mollie’s body had been found. By late morning hours, a press release from the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation confirmed that a body had been found but declined to go into much detail, pending a press conference. At 4 pm on August 21, Special Agent-In-Charge Rick Rahn stepped up to a podium and announced to the nation that investigators had discovered a body they believed to be that of Mollie Tibbetts. In addition, investigators announced that 24-year-old Cristhian Rivera, of Poweshiek County, had been charged with first-degree murder in her disappearance. Authorities also confirmed during the press conference that they believe Rivera to be an illegal alien.


            According to Rahn, a home surveillance camera provided authorities with a big break in the case. Just one week before, authorities, at an August 14 press conference, urged the public to provide any information regarding Mollie’s disappearance they thought might be helpful to investigators. Authorities also asked members of the public who had been in certain areas of Brooklyn and Poweshiek County on July 18-19 to contact authorities with any information they may have. Days after that press conference, a homeowner in Brooklyn turned over home surveillance camera footage. Rahn said that authorities spent “hours” reviewing the footage looking for any evidence of Mollie. The footage showed a black Malibu, later determined to be driven by Cristhian Rivera, circling the area multiple times.


            “We were also able to find Mollie running on this video and we were able to determine he was one of the last people to have seen Mollie running, based on the video that we were able to seize from the general public,” Rahn said. “The video was critical. I’ll put it that way,” he added.


            After authorities were able to identify Rivera as the driver, Rahn said they located him and conducted a “lengthy” interview with him. Rahn said that Rivera was willing to speak with authorities and had been compliant.


            “During that interview he tells us that he sees Mollie running and was able… to approach her. While he was interfacing with her he actually tells us that he ran alongside of her or behind her. And then at one point he tells us that Mollie grabs her phone and says ‘you need to leave me alone, I’m gonna call the police.’ Then she took off running. He in turn chased her down. And then tells us at some point that he blacks out and then he comes to near an intersection near which we believe he placed Mollie,” Rahn said of the interview.


            Rahn added that Rivera told authorities in the interview that he had seen Tibbetts before but Rahn declined to go into further detail as to what those interactions may have been. He also said that it appeared to investigators that Rivera was following Tibbetts along her running route, which took her along 385th avenue, east of Brooklyn


            “He followed her around, circled around a couple of times, located her, and then began to interface with her at some point in time on 385th [avenue],” Rahn said. “It seemed that he followed her and seemed to be drawn to her on that particular day. And for whatever reason, he chose to abduct her,” he added.


            After the interview, Rivera led authorities to Mollie’s body. Rahn said Mollie’s body was located in a rural section of Poweshiek County along 460th Ave. Rahn said that authorities had not been able to previously locate her body because of the nature of where the body was placed.


            “We certainly had extensive searches throughout the county, we just didn’t have success locating her. In this particular case, she was found in a cornfield and there were cornstalks placed over the top of her and we just weren’t able to locate her at that particular part of the investigation,” Rahn said.


            Rivera is currently being held in the Poweshiek County Jail and is also facing an immigration detainer from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.


For the rest of this article check out the Aug 29th issue of The News Review, or The Keota Eagle.