The desperate search for 20-year-old Iowa college student Mollie Tibbetts last year gripped the nation. Tibbetts went missing while jogging on July 18, 2018. A little over a month later, farmworker and illegal alien Cristhian Bahena Rivera, led police to her body in a cornfield, where she was found covered with corn leaves. The next day he was charged with first-degree murder.
Tibbetts' autopsy showed she died of "multiple sharp force injuries."
In a March 2018 filing, Bahena Rivera's attorneys began the process of trying to get his confession and other evidence thrown out because they claim the police's reading of his Miranda rights was "deficient," and that it was not given until eleven hours into their interrogation, a time when they say he obviously was in custody.
In addition, they now say that as a Mexican national, Bahena Rivera had a right to contact the Mexican consulate before speaking to police, something they say he was not told he could do.
The Des Moines Register reports that prosecutors, in a filing on May 31, refuted most of these allegations, saying the interview was conducted properly and that all evidence gathered is admissible. According to the newspaper, the prosecutors argued that the search of Bahena Rivera's car was valid because "he granted both verbal and written consent through a federal agent."
Bahena Rivera, they argued, also "could not be considered to have been in custody when initially taken to the sheriff's office because he'd agreed to talk, was given food and drink, wasn't restrained, had access to his phone and was told he was free to leave if he wanted."
According to the Register, investigators say when they asked him if they would find anything in his car when they searched it, Bahena Rivera said that "if he had anything to hide, he would have left out the door." Investigators did find blood, later identified as belonging to Tibbetts, in the trunk of his car.
Bahena Rivera has pleaded not guilty to the charge of first-degree murder. If convicted, he will spend the rest of his life in prison with no chance of parole.
Attorneys will be able to argue their points on the motion to suppress evidence at a hearing on Aug. 23. If the judge agrees to throw out the confession, other incriminating evidence may also be in jeopardy. If he rules in the state's favor, the trial of the alleged murderer of Tibbetts is scheduled for November.
At that time, not only will the nation once again be riveted on justice for an innocent young woman, but also on whether her alleged killer should ever have been in the country in the first place.