Twenty year old Psychology student, Mollie Cecilia Tibbetts, went missing while out on a jog around the city of Brooklyn in Iowa on the evening of July 18th.
Brooklyn is part of Poweshiek County, just north of I-80 and just off highway 6. The city has a population of around 1500 residents and is considered as a safe place to live by many. Before the disappearance of Miss Tibbetts many residents confessed they felt so safe that they didn’t even bother to lock their doors.
On the day she went missing Mollie was dog-sitting at her boyfriend’s house. When evening came she changed into her running clothes to go for a jog just like she did every evening. She took a selfie on Snapchat before she left and sent it to her boyfriend who was out of town for work in Dubuque, he opened it later that night around 10PM. The last time any locals recall seeing Mollie is at around 7:30PM that night jogging along her usual route, clad in a pink sports top, dark shorts and training shoes.
The following day Mollie didn't show up to work at Grinnell daycare and neglected to call in sick, which was very unlike her. Calls and texts to her phone went unanswered and messages through social media apps went unread. Concerned friends and family members contacted one another and came to the conclusion that the missing 20 year old hadn’t responded to anybody since the previous day. Her concerned family contacted the local police to report her missing and the search began.
Despite hundreds of Brooklyn residents searching the local area on foot, they found nothing. Helicopters scanned from the air to no avail. Lakes were searched but turned up no clues pertaining to the girl’s disappearance. The search extended outwards of a five mile radius from the area that she went missing but volunteers and investigators found no clues. Police quickly came to a dead.
Mollie was a nice girl. She was pretty, friendly and funny and had no enemies at school or in the local area.
Although her boyfriend, Dalton, whom she had been dating for almost 3 years, was originally a suspect as he was the last person to see her before she disappeared, he was eventually ruled out. It seemed as though Mollie had went out for a jog that evening and simply vanished off the face of the earth.
Days passed and Tibbetts did not make contact with her family or walk through the door of the family home as they so desperately hoped she would. She had plans to catch a flight abroad to the Dominican Republic with her boyfriend to attend his brother’s wedding, but the day came and went and still no sign of the missing girl. The ceremony was cancelled while the search for Mollie continued.
Missing people’s cases do not usually get the exposure they deserve, but missing Molly Tibbett received a lot of online attention and her story was even shared by local celebrities in the hope of bringing her home. A record breaking $366,000 reward for information leading to the safe recovery of Miss Tibbetts was offered to the public. A missing poster circulated heavily on Twitter, describing the 20 year old as 5”3, 120lbs with tanned skin and long brown hair. A photo of the baby-faced student, beaming a smile at the camera while in the stands at a college football game, accompanied the text. Despite mass coverage, no one had seen her and people were left to speculate about what happened on the day she went missing.
Mollies friends and family vowed never to give up the search, but without answers, they began to entertain the notion that perhaps she had been kidnapped.
Police believed that Mollie could have been abducted by someone she knew and so began interviewing coworkers and classmates, but even after an estimated 500 individual interviews they found no one they believed could be a suspect in the case.
After weeks of canvassing the local area investigators happened upon a surveillance tape that showed a black Chevrolet Malibu cruising along Mollie’s usual jogging route. They traced the vehicle back to a 24 year old man named Cristhian Bahena Rivera. Rivera was a Poweshiek County resident who worked on a Yarrabee Farms and had been doing various farm work under the name “John Budd” for several years since moving from Mexico to the US when he was a teenager. He lived in a rural part of town and did not associate with the locals. He was later identified as an undocumented immigrant, a fact that was used in a tweet by president trump to support his plans to build a wall around Mexico. Mollie had been openly critical of Trumps stance on immigration and her father was unhappy that his daughter’s death had been politicized in the media.
Rivera did not resist arrest and explained to police that he saw Mollie running along 385th street and followed her. He claimed that he began to run alongside her and she asked him to leave her alone and threatened to call the police if he did not. He claimed he became angry and upset and “blocked his memory”. He eventually came around and found himself at a crossroads. Rivera claims that he does not remember anything between getting angry and finding himself at the intersection. He later led police to Tibbett’s body.
Mollie Tibbetts' body was discovered on farm land on the 21st of August concealed by cornstalks in a field just off 460th avenue. Autopsy revealed that she had multiple injuries from a sharp object.
Cristhian Bahena Rivera has been arrested and charged with first degree murder.
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