POWESHIEK COUNTY, Iowa — More than three years after Mollie Tibbetts disappeared while going for a jog in her hometown of Brooklyn, the man convicted of killing her has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
For Tibbetts’ friends and family, it’s a final chapter in a long search for justice.
Tibbetts, a University of Iowa student, was last seen alive on July 18, 2018, when she left her home to go for a run and never returned. A nationwide search was launched in the days after her disappearance but there was no sign of her for months.
Then, in August 2018, police used home surveillance video to identify a vehicle of interest that ultimately led them to Cristhian Bahena Rivera. In a police interview, he admitted to confronting Tibbetts during her run, and she responded by hitting him and threatening to call police.
The next thing he recalled was taking her body out of his truck and placing her in cornfield. He then led authorities to her body and was taken into custody.
An autopsy showed the Tibbetts died of multiple stab wounds. Officials discovered her DNA in the trunk of Bahena Rivera’s car. Bahena Rivera was convicted of first-degree murder in May 2021. That conviction carries a mandatory sentence of life without the possibility of parole in Iowa.
Bahena Rivera’s attorneys had requested a new trial for their client based on alleged confessions from an Iowa inmate who claimed Bahena Rivera may have been set up to cover for a sex-trafficking operation. That request was denied.