Mollie Tibbetts

WATCH: Mollie Tibbetts’ alleged killer appears in court, defense lawyer claims suspect is in the U.S. legally

Accused murderer Cristhian Bahena Rivera made his first court appearance on Wednesday afternoon in connection with the murder of University of Iowa student, Mollie Tibbetts.

Rivera sat silently in a Poweshiek County courtroom with headphones on, while a translator communicated with him in Spanish, as a judge informed him of his charges and rights. Rivera stared down throughout most of the hearing, while wearing a black and white jail uniform, with his hands cuffed in front of him. His defense attorney, Allen Richards, sat to Rivera’s right side and answered for him, but on certain questions, Rivera nodded his head and answered “si,” or shook his head and answered “no.”

The suspect decided against entering a plea during the brief appearance. Richards asked the judge to bar the media from the proceeding and asked that Rivera’s bond be set at somewhat reasonable amount. The judge denied Richards’ requests and set Rivera’s bond at $5 million, cash only.

Initial appearance for man accused of murdering Mollie Tibbetts

LIVE: Initial court appearance for Cristhian Bahena Rivera, charged with murder in killing of Mollie Tibbetts.

Posted by We Are Iowa Local 5 News on Wednesday, August 22, 2018


On Wednesday morning, Richards filed a court document that stated Rivera was working legally in the U.S., according to the Des Moines Register. During am earlier press conference on Tuesday, Poweshiek County Sheriff Tom Kriegel indicated Rivera entered the country illegally and was being held on a federal immigration detainer.

RELATED Reading: Mollie Tibbetts: Arrest affidavit provides grim details on college student’s kidnapping, murder

Eric Lang, the owner of Yarabee Farms, employed Rivera. On Wednesday, the Lang family released a public statement indicating that they used the “E-Verify” system to ensure Rivera was legally allowed to work in the U.S. before hiring him. The Lang family said Rivera passed the verification check.

READ More: Mollie Tibbetts: Family who hired murder suspect at dairy farm claims he passed government ID check to work in country legally

“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,” Richard wrote.

“Sad and sorry Trump has weighed in on this matter in national media which will poison the entire possible pool of jury members,” Richards continued. “Cristhian deserves the court’s protection as to his characterization before a jury pool.”

Yet, a law enforcement official told the Washington Post that Rivera obtained fraudulent identification and used it to pass the E-Verify check. A spokesperson for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement stated the agency filed an immigration detainer on Rivera on Tuesday.

The story continues to develop. Check back with CrimeOnline as additional details become available.

Timeline of Mollie’s disappearance

July 16-17

  • Mollie’s boyfriend saw her for the last time on July 16, before leaving town to work at a Dubuque construction site with his brother, around 100 miles away from Brooklyn.
  • On July 17, Dalton and his brother, who lives with him, drove to work. Mollie agreed to dog-sit while he was gone.
  • At around 5:30 p.m. on July 17, Mollie’s brother, Jake Tibbetts, who shares a car with her, dropped her off at Dalton’s home. Mollie stayed alone while watching the dogs.

July 18

  • Investigators report another neighbor reported Mollie out for a jog at around 7:30 p.m. on July 18.
  • Mollie had plans to go to her mother’s house for dinner on the evening on July 18. She never showed up.
  • At 10 p.m. on July 18, Dalton opened the SnapChat message from Mollie. He said it looked like she took the photo while indoors. It’s unclear when Mollie took the picture but detectives think she took it at some point on Wednesday.

July 19

  • Jake Tibbetts, who has been cleared as a suspect, sends Mollie a text message at 7:30 a.m., asking if she needed the car for work. The text message was not read.
  • Dalton sends Mollie a text message, wishing her a good morning. Mollie does not read the text message.
  • Mollie’s mother, Laura Calderwood, sends Mollie several text messages throughout the afternoon. All text messages remain unanswered.
  • Jake Tibbetts calls Laura Calderwood and says Mollie never made it to work at a daycare center. Laura calls the police.

July 20

  • The Facebook group, “Finding Mollie Tibbetts,” was created. It currently has over 40,000 members.
  • Hundreds of people show up in the Brooklyn area to search for Mollie.
  • The Poweshiek County Sheriff’s Office announces that tips should directed to its office.
  • The University of Iowa released a statement on Twitter that the school is also monitoring the incident and looking for any helpful information.

July 22

  • Authorities announce Mollie is still missing and that nothing was found during the searches.

July 23

  • Dalton tells ABC he’s optimistic about Mollie’s return.
  • Laura Calderwood says her daughter is an “outgoing, fun, loving life, loving person.”
  • Poweshiek County Sheriff Thomas Kriegel announces that no one from the “tight-knit” community in Brooklyn has been missing this long.

July 25

  • Investigators continue to follow up with tips and leads.
  • The family spreads the search even further by distributing flyers across the state.
  •  Kriegel indicates Mollie could have possibly been abducted.

July 26

  • Investigators search two hog farms after following up on tips, but the searches yield no results.
  • Wayne Cheney is questioned by the FBI.
  • Authorities search Cheney’s home and cellphone.

July 27

  • Iowa Department of Public Safety released a statement announcing that there are still no suspects but authorities will continue to pursue leads and investigate.
  • A neighbor tells a local media outlet that he spotted Mollie “walking nonchalantly” down the street.

August 2

  • As authorities searched an area close to the Lincoln Wildfire Reserve in Brooklyn, Iowa, someone mowing their lawn nearby discovered a red a shirt.
  • The shirt was turned over to the FBI for evidence processing.
  • FBI reportedly asked Cheney to take a lie detector test. He refused.

August 3

  • An FBI agent goes to Cheney’s house for a second round of questioning.

August 5

  • Authorities revealed there have been “hundreds” of leads and tips into Mollie’s disappearance.
  • An Iowa woman’s body was found in Lee County, but despite speculation, police confirmed it was not Mollie, but instead a young woman named  Sadie Alvarado, who allegedly jumped out of a moving car while arguing with her boyfriend.

August 6

  • Rob Tibbetts explained why his daughter, according to his own speculations, may still be alive.
  • Tibbetts encouraged anyone responsible for Mollie’s disappearance to come forward now, before things get worse.

August 9

  • Brooklyn resident Devin Riley describes how he saw Mollie jog past him home on the evening of July 18, explaining that she was wearing a pink sports bra and running short.
  • Riley explained that he contacted police after he realized Mollie had disappeared.

August 12

  • Former FBI profiler says she thinks Mollie left with someone she knew, explaining that the “most likely scenario is that Mollie was at least somewhat familiar with the person that she went with.”

August 21

  • Authorities find a deceased body in a rural area between Deep River, Iowa, and Guernsey, Iowa. Officials stated the body is likely of Mollie Tibbetts.
  • Authorities detain Cristhian Bahena Rivera without incident. Rivera allegedly confesses to hiding Mollie’s body.
  • During a press conference, authorities announce Rivera entered the country illegally and has a federal immigration detainer.

August 22

  • Owners of a local dairy farm speak out and claim they checked Rivera’s eligibility to work in the U.S. prior to hiring him.

[Feature Photo: Cristhian Rivera and Mollie Tibbetts/Handouts]