DES MOINES, Iowa – Christhian Bahena Rivera, 26, was found guilty on Friday of the first-degree murder of Mollie Tibbetts, 20, by a Scott County jury. after deliberating for seven hours. Iowa law requires a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole.
Tibbetts, a psychology major at the University of Iowa, went missing during a run outside her hometown of Brooklyn on July 18, 2018. Tibbetts’ body was later found in a cornfield southeast of Brooklyn and Rivera was charged with first-degree murder. Rivera had led law enforcement authorities to the body.
“This was the verdict that the evidence demanded,” Poweshiek County Attorney Bart Klaver, one of the prosecutors, said.
He said the outcome was a “weight off of everyone’s shoulders.”
Rivera’s attorneys, Jennifer and Scott Frese, promised an appeal.
Several elected officials responded to the verdict.
“Mollie Tibbetts’s death was absolutely tragic, and my heart has been with her family during this unimaginably difficult time. I believe justice was served in this case and hope the Tibbetts family can find closure. We have to work to ensure that no other family endures what the Tibbetts family has gone through,” U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, said in a released statement.
U.S. Senator Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, tweeted that justice was served.
“Mollie Tibbetts’ murder was a heartbreaking tragedy. Today, justice was rightly served. We must do all we can to ensure senseless acts like this don’t happen again. God bless the Tibbetts family,” she said.
Mollie Tibbetts’ murder was a heartbreaking tragedy.
Today, justice was rightly served.
We must do all we can to ensure senseless acts like this don’t happen again.
God bless the Tibbetts family.
— Joni Ernst (@SenJoniErnst) May 28, 2021
U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, addressed the immigration debate. Rivera was in the United States illegally.
“Iowans’ hearts broke when Mollie Tibbetts was murdered by an undocumented immigrant in 2018 2day the murderer was found guilty & justice was served for a senseless act of violence that took a young life God bless Mollie & her family/friends,” he tweeted.
Iowans’ hearts broke when Mollie Tibbetts was murdered by an undocumented immigrant in 2018 2day the murderer was found guilty & justice was served for a senseless act of violence that took a young life God bless Mollie & her family/friends
— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) May 28, 2021
Gov. Kim Reynolds offered words of comfort for the Tibbetts family.
“My heart goes out to Mollie’s family for having to endure the pain and suffering that resulted from this horrific murder. I pray that today’s verdict will not just bring justice but some sense of closure to her family and the community. There is no bringing Mollie back, but her memory will continue to live on through the happiness she brought to all who knew her,” she said in a released statement.
Attorney General Tom Miller applauded the work done in the case.
The officers in the Bahena Rivera case should be applauded. "It's not that they're lucky, they're persistent," AAG Scott Brown said. Thank you, @IowaDPS and local law enforcement. #MollieTibbetts
— IA Attorney General (@AGIowa) May 28, 2021
State Auditor Rob Sand tweeted, “Good. I pray her family has peace and her legacy of kindness & service lives on.”
Good. I pray her family has peace and her legacy of kindness & service lives on. https://t.co/dyXb4tde0s
— Rob Sand (@RobSandIA) May 28, 2021