A jury in Iowa on Friday afternoon found illegal immigrant Cristhian Bahena Rivera guilty of first-degree murder in the high-profile 2018 slaying of college student Mollie Tibbetts.
Rivera sat emotionless wearing headphones that translated the verdict to him Friday at the Scott County Courthouse in Davenport, Iowa.
“(Tibbetts’ family) are relieved. They’re pleased with the verdict,” prosecution attorney Scott Brown said, according to KCCI-TV. “The family of Mollie Tibbetts is a great bunch. They’ve been awesome to work with and the circumstance of course is always very tragic … They’ve been very supportive of everything we’ve done. We just wish them the best moving forward.”
Meanwhile, the defense counsel maintained their client’s innocence.
“Can we tell you who did this? No. We can tell you that getting to know Cristhian Bahena we are very surprised that he would be the kind of person to commit a crime like this,” defense attorney Chad Frese said. “He is nothing but a soft-spoken, respectful, kind person. Every person we have talked to in the last two and a half years who have any interaction with this man echoes that. He’s been a delight to represent from a legal standpoint, from a lawyer’s standpoint.”
Jack, however, had an alibi during the time when his then-girlfriend went missing, as he was reportedly working a construction job over 100 miles away.
Tibbetts was found stabbed to death near the community of Brooklyn, Iowa, in July of 2018. Her disappearance became a murder investigation when her body was found discarded in a cornfield a month later.
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The young woman, only 20 years old, was a student at the University of Iowa at the time of her death.
Tibbetts was jogging when Rivera, a Mexican national who was in the country illegally, stabbed her up to a dozen times, according to prosecutors. TIbbetts’ killer admitted to police that he confronted the victim.
Tibbetts was found partially nude in the cornfield. Rivera’s defense team said the victim’s DNA was connected to the convicted killer because he was forced to take part in her murder.
The defendant took the stand and claimed that two masked men had forced him to participate in the crime. Rivera also admitted he blacked out around the time of the brutal killing after interacting with Tibbetts.
Surveillance videos from the area where the woman disappeared captured Rivera as he stalked Tibbetts while she exercised.
The jury concurred with the state in the case. Rivera will now await sentencing, which is scheduled for July 15. He is expected to face a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
KCCI reported that Rivera’s attorneys intend to appeal the conviction.
Tibbetts’ tragic slaying first made national news when former President Donald Trump commented on Rivera’s immigration status.
“Democrat immigration policies are destroying innocent lives and spilling very innocent blood,” Trump said of the case, CNN reported. “We believe that any party that puts criminal aliens before American citizens should be out of office, not into office.”