Mollie Tibbetts: Murder trial begins in death of 20-year-old University of Iowa student
“When you put this evidence together, there can be no conclusion other than that the accused killed Mollie Tibbetts,” Poweshiek County District Attorney Bart Klaver said.
Tibbetts, a University of Iowa student, disappeared after an evening of racing in Brooklyn, Iowa on July 18, 2018, sparking extensive research in the area that gained national attention. A month later, his body was found under corn stalks after a man allegedly confessed to hiding it and leading investigators to the scene.
In a follow-up interview with a Spanish-speaking Iowa city police officer on August 20, Rivera admitted that he was the only one to drive the vehicle, the prosecutor said. After initially denying knowing Tibbetts, he then admitted he saw her the night he went missing, admitted he found her attractive and said he came back for a second look, Klaver said to the jury.
The next morning, Rivera and investigators went to a cornfield in rural Poweshiek County, where he allegedly admitted to following Tibbetts and jogging beside her. She threatened to call the police and Rivera admitted he got angry and got into a fight with her, Klaver told court.
“The next thing he remembers” was driving and realizing that Tibbetts was in his trunk, Klaver said. Rivera reportedly admitted that he took her bloodied body out of the trunk, transported her to a field and placed corn stalks on her body, according to Klaver.
His body was therefore found in that cornfield wearing the same multi-colored running shoes as his jogging shoes, the prosecutor said. The medical examiner determined that Tibbetts had been stabbed seven to 12 times. Blood matching his DNA was also found in the trunk of the vehicle, Klaver said.
Klaver urged jurors to focus on three aspects: Rivera’s vehicle and admission that he drove it, his blood in the trunk, and his confession to investigators.
The trial has been delayed several times and has been moved to Davenport due to pre-trial publicity, court records show. It should last about 10 days.
Tibbetts was studying psychology at the University of Iowa and wanted to get a doctorate and write books, his father said.
His death as a subject of political discussion
“Sadly, others ignored our request. They instead chose to distort and corrupt Mollie’s tragic death to advance a cause she vehemently opposed,” he wrote in an editorial in the Des Moines Register. “I encourage the immigration debate; there is great merit in its reasonable outcome. But do not take Mollie’s soul into your own hands to advance views that she believed to be deeply racist.”
CNN’s Marlena Baldacci, Casey Hicks and Ray Sanchez contributed to this report.