Undocumented immigrant charged in death of Mollie Tibbetts

Cristhian Rivera, charged with first-degree murder. (Iowa DCI)

A man who has been living in the U.S. illegally has been charged in the death of Mollie Tibbetts.

24-year-old Cristhian Rivera is charged with first-degree murder. He is being held on an federal immigration detainer and cooperating with authorities.

Officials have yet to officially confirm that the body was found is Tibbetts, but they believe it is her. An autopsy is being performed to confirm the cause of death and officially identify the body.

An affidavit says Rivera was seen on surveillance video following Tibbetts in his black Chevy Malibu on July 18. He told authorities he followed Tibbetts on her run to the point that Tibbetts threatened to call police. She then began to run and he followed her on foot. Rivera told authorities he then panicked and "blacked out" and finally came to while stopped at an intersection in his car. He then made a u-turn and drove into a driveway to a cornfield. He then noticed there was an ear piece from headphones in his lap and realized he put Tibbetts in the trunk of his car. Rivera told police he then dragged Mollie from his vehicle about 20 meters into the corn field, where he left her.

Rivera led authorities to Tibbetts in the corn field after being questioned Aug. 20. Authorities say she was covered with corn stalks when he took them to her.

Rivera is believed to have been living in the area for 4-7 years.

Tibbetts had been missing since July 18, when she went out for a run in Brooklyn.

Gov. Kim Reynolds issued the following statement about Mollie Tibbetts:

“Today, our state woke up to heart-wrenching news. As a mother, I can’t imagine the sorrow felt by the Tibbetts family. We are all suffering over the death of Mollie, knowing that it could have been our own daughter, sister or friend.
“I spoke with Mollie’s family and passed on the heartfelt condolences of a grieving state. I shared with them my hope that they can find comfort knowing that God does not leave us to suffer alone. Even in our darkest moments, He will comfort and heal our broken hearts.
“I want to recognize and thank our local, state and federal law enforcement community for their coordinated and tireless efforts to find Mollie.
“Over the past month, thousands of Iowans searched and prayed for Mollie’s safe return. Now, we are called to come together once again to lift up a grieving family. The search for Mollie is over, but the demand for justice has just begun.
“As Iowans, we are heartbroken, and we are angry. We are angry that a broken immigration system allowed a predator like this to live in our community, and we will do all we can bring justice to Mollie’s killer.”

Sen. Joni Ernst and Sen. Chuck Grassley released a joint statement:

“We are deeply saddened that this bright, young woman’s life was cut short. Our heart goes out to the family and friends of Mollie Tibbetts. No family should ever have to endure such a tragedy, especially one that could have been prevented. We are thankful for the hard work of Governor Reynolds and federal, state and local law enforcement as they continue to find answers for Mollie’s family and the American public and bring the killer to justice. As Governor Reynolds said, ‘our immigration system allowed a predator like this to live in our community.’ Too many Iowans have been lost at the hands of criminals who broke our immigration laws. We cannot allow these tragedies to continue.”

The University of Iowa, where Tibbetts was a student, also issued a statement:

We are deeply saddened that we’ve lost a member of the University of Iowa community. Our thoughts are with Mollie Tibbetts’ family, friends, and classmates.
Losing a fellow student and member of our Hawkeye family is difficult. President Harreld and I share in your grief and encourage you to reach out if you are in need of support.
A list of resources can be found on the university's safety and support website (http://www.uiowa.edu/homepage/safety-and-support) or by calling one of these offices:
• University Counseling Services (319-335-7294)
• Student Care and Assistance (319-335-1162)
• UI Employee Assistance Program (319-335-2085)

This story is breaking and will be updated.

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