Judge Joel Yates sentenced Cristhian Bahena Rivera to life without parole, the mandatory death penalty for first-degree murder in Iowa. The 27-year-old former farm worker, who said he illegally entered the United States from Mexico as a teenager, has been in jail since his arrest in August 2018.
The man, convicted of the 2018 death of Mollie Tibbetts, a University of Iowa student, was sentenced to life in prison on Monday, three years after missing on an overnight trip.
From CNN: Cristhian Bahena Rivera receives life sentence for murder of Mollie Tibbetts https://t.co/3KQTEuX2sn
— Laura Di Bella (@LauraDiBella15) August 30, 2021
“Given the facts and circumstances of this case, it is well deserved,” said prosecutor Scott Brown of the life sentence.
Tibbetts, 20, went missing while walking down a country road outside her hometown of Brooklyn, Iowa on July 18, 2018. Investigators were taken to Bahena Rivera after surveillance footage of “appeared to show the owner of the car. her Chevy Malibu repeatedly pass Tibbetts as she raced. “.
Finally, he led investigators to Tibbetts’ body, which was found in a cornfield a month after her disappearance. She had been stabbed several times.
Bahena Rivera said she approached Tibbetts because she found her attractive and she threatened to call the police. Prosecutors suspected she had a s*xual motive and said Tibbetts was wearing only socks and a sports bra and had her legs spread when her body was found. They built their case around the surveillance video, her partial confession, and the DNA evidence of Tibbett’s blood in the trunk of her car.
Tibbetts mother, Laura Calderwood, approached Bahena Rivera in a statement read by a judicial official about the impact on the victim.
“Mollie was a young woman who just wanted to run quietly on the night of July 18th and you have decided to end this life in a violent and sadistic way,” she wrote.
She told Bahena Rivera that the case forced Hispanic workers to flee the area and prevented events in her life such as her daughter’s boyfriend from making the proposal.
“Because of your actions, Mr. Rivera, I will never see my daughter become a mother,” Calderwood said.
The case sparked anger at illegal immigration and was mentioned by then President Trump in a video posted online. He claimed that “the extraordinary young woman is now permanently separated from her family” as she denounced US immigration laws. Some members of the Tibbetts family refused to tell.
During her trial, Bahena Rivera surprised all of her when she said she was kidnapped from her trailer by two masked men at gunpoint. She said they forced him to drive and told him to get rid of her body.
He said they threatened to kill his ex-girlfriend and young daughter if he didn’t keep quiet. Defense lawyers also tried to suspect Tibbetts’ friend.
The case took a different turn after Bahena Rivera’s conviction, when two people came forward and said a 21-year-old man confessed to killing Tibbetts. Yates delayed the sentencing so defense lawyers could investigate.
In a new motion for judgment, they attempted to link Tibbetts’ death to a young woman’s complaint that she was kidnapped and sexually assaulted in a sex trafficking home and the disappearance of an 11-year-old boy from the same district. . Investigators found no connection between Tibbett’s death and the missing child.
Yates denied the motion, saying he was aware of much of the evidence presented prior to the guilty verdict. Defense lawyers announced they would appeal the sentence.