Mollie Tibbetts

Mollie Tibbetts: Aunt of alleged killer’s former girlfriend hopes DNA will ‘clear his name’

A woman who says she knows the man accused of killing University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts hopes DNA testing will clear the “normal acting” suspect of the crime he’s accused of.

FOX News reports that the aunt of Iris Monarrez, 24-year-old Cristhian Rivera’s former girlfriend, stated that she she never saw him act violently and is shocked at the news that he’s the main suspect in the murder of 20-year-old Mollie Tibbetts, of Brooklyn, Iowa, who disappeared on July 18.

“He was a good person. He was a jokester,” the woman said in Spanish. “For us, he was a good and normal person. Not aggressive or violent, no. He was normal just like us.”

The aunt, who withheld her name, stated that she would often talk about Mollie’s disappearance at family gatherings, where others, including Rivera, would discuss it as well. She claimed Rivera never showed any signs that he could have been involved. The woman said Rivera was the ex-boyfriend of her niece, Iris, and the father of Iris’ young daughter. The couple reportedly broke up around a year and a half ago.

“[Rivera] would comment as well and we would all say that we were surprised and scared because this is a quiet town….He never displayed signs for us to suspect that he had anything to do with this.”

Describing Rivera as a “talented young man,” the aunt said she’s eagerly awaiting DNA test results which she hopes will clear the suspect’s name.

According to police, however, Rivera fully admitted to following Mollie in a black Chevrolet Malibu, even getting out of the car and jogging alongside her. He allegedly said he “blacked out” when she threatened to call 911, then later came to and found the University of Iowa student in the trunk of the car, with the side of her head bloodied.

“During our neighborhood canvas, we came across an individual that had security cameras,” Poweshiek County Sheriff Tom Kriegel said on Tuesday, explaining how Rivera landed on the radar of authorities. “He [the resident with surveillance footage] was kind enough to give us the footage from it. And through that, we were able to identify a vehicle that believe belonged to Mr. Rivera. It was a black Malibu. And from that we were able to track his pattern and the routes in which he took.”

Further, authorities said not only did Rivera describe the clothing Mollie was wearing, but he also gave them directions to the location of her body, where they found Mollie face-up, buried under corn leaves. A preliminary autopsy report released Thursday afternoon indicated Mollie’s death was a homicide, caused by “multiple sharp force injuries.”

As CrimeOnline previously reported, two people from the Brooklyn, Iowa, area have reportedly came forward with similar accounts of Rivera allegedly following other females in his car.

READ More: Teen girl says alleged killer Cristhian Rivera ‘creeped her out’ and followed her in his car prior to Mollie Tibbetts’ death: Report

Check back with CrimeOnline as additional details become available.

Cristhian Bahena Rivera [Photo: Poweshiek County Sheriff’s Office]

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.
  • Dane Lang, co-owner of Yarrabee Farms, announced that Rivera used fraudulent identification to obtain employment at the farm.
  • A Poweshiek County judge sets River’s bond at $5 million.

[Feature Photo: Mollie Tibbetts/Handout]