Lawyer: Mollie Tibbetts' Murder Suspect Here Legally

Cristhian Rivera wasn't interviewed until Monday
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 22, 2018 2:55 PM CDT
Name of Mollie Tibbetts' Suspected Killer 'Hadn't Surfaced'
Cristhian Bahena Rivera is escorted into the Poweshiek County Courthouse for his initial court appearance, Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018, in Montezuma, Iowa. Rivera is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Mollie Tibbetts, who disappeared July 18 from Brooklyn, Iowa.   (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Officials say they didn't know the name of the man suspected of murdering Mollie Tibbetts until just days ago. "His name hadn't surfaced. Hadn't come across the radar," Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation Assistant Director Mitch Mortvedt tells the Des Moines Register. He says it wasn't until last Thursday or Friday that the Iowa DCI received video taken by a local home's surveillance system that caught a glimpse of Tibbetts jogging on July 18. Mortvedt says Cristhian Rivera's black Chevrolet Malibu appeared several times. After "hours upon hours" spent reviewing the tape, the path led to Rivera, whom they interviewed late Monday. Officials say he brought them to Tibbetts' body early Tuesday. The latest on the case:
  • On any connection between Tibbetts and Rivera: "There is nothing that we have come across as of yet that shows they had any type of relationship," says Mortvedt. "And I don't mean intimate dating, I mean friendship, acquaintance, what have you. He had mentioned I believe that he had seen her before, in what context I don't know if it was just in passing or had seen her in town somewhere, but it sounded like he at least had recognized her."

  • Bail set: Rivera was on Wednesday ordered held on a $5 million cash bond. Fox News describes the 24-year-old as "mostly stoic and looked straight ahead in the courtroom." He declined the opportunity to speak and used an interpreter. The next hearing in the case is set for Aug. 31.
  • Rivera's status: Rivera's attorney has challenged the assertion that Rivera is in the US illegally. The AP cites a court document in which defense attorney Allan Richards says Rivera's employer, Craig Lang, verified Rivera has legal permission to be in Iowa. Lang is a prominent Republican who co-owns the dairy Rivera worked at. The AP reports the Lang family has said it ran Rivera through an E-Verify electronic immigration status check. Richards' motion states "Craig Lang supports Cristhian's right to be in this jurisdiction and for the government to support any other idea of status publicly flies in the face of such statement."
  • Swing at Trump: Richards' motion also reads, "Sad and sorry Trump has weighed in on this matter in national media which will poison the entire possible pool of jury members."
  • More from Rivera: The Washington Post has more on what Rivera allegedly told investigators: He allegedly said that after he approached Tibbetts and she threatened to call police he recalled nothing of what happened next until he looked in his lap while in his car and saw a headphone earpiece; that spurred him to open the trunk. A woman bleeding from the head was inside. He allegedly said he dragged the body 60 feet into a cornfield.
  • Tibbetts' family: Fox News reports Tibbetts' family issued their first comments since learning the 20-year-old's body had been found. They issued this statement less than 30 minutes before Rivera appeared in court: "We know that many of you will join us as we continue to carry Mollie in our hearts forever. At this time, our family asks that we be allowed the time to process our devastating loss and share our grief in private. Again, thank you for the outpouring of love and support that has been shared in Mollie's name. We remain forever grateful."
(More Mollie Tibbetts stories.)

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