Mollie Tibbetts: Prosecutors provide key detail that led to suspected killer’s arrest

The lawyers for the suspected killer of slain jogger Mollie Tibbetts requested additional evidence last month in the murder case, and although prosecutors explained the request was premature on Wednesday, they offered a key detail that led to the suspect’s arrest.

Des Moines Register reports that 24-year-old Cristhian Rivera, accused of killing 20-year-old Mollie in July, reportedly told prosecutors in August that it was his car they were viewing on surveillance footage provided by a Brooklyn, Iowa resident, showing a black Chevrolet Malibu circling around the area Mollie jogged at when she vanished.

“Yes, that’s my car,” Rivera said, according to a court filing made on Wednesday morning.

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The filing was in response to a”bill of particulars” request, filed by Rivera’s lawyers after they claimed the prosecution didn’t provide enough information in the case for them to build a proper defense.

“The filing of this motion is premature,” prosecutors Scott Brown and Laura Roan said in the court filing, referring to the bill of particulars.

An Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation report is expected to be finalized and handed over to the defense lawyers on Friday. Prosecutors indicated further forensic testing is expected to be complete in November.

As CrimeOnline previously reported, Mollie, a University of Iowa student and avid jogger who ran on the cross-country team during high school, disappeared on July 18.

Cristhian Rivera [Iowa Department of Public Safety]
Mollie sent a message to her boyfriend on Snapchat at some point on July 18. He opened the message at around 10 p.m. that night, but it remains unclear what time Mollie sent the message. It was last time anyone heard from her, and according to her family, it was completely out of character for her to go anywhere for long periods without checking in.

In August, authorities arrested Rivera after he reportedly led them to Mollie’s deceased body, found in a cornfield around 12 miles southeast of Brooklyn.

“During our neighborhood canvas, we came across an individual that had security cameras,” Poweshiek County Sheriff Tom Kriegel said, 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.”

Authorities confirmed that Rivera is an undocumented immigrant and is being held on a federal immigration detainer, meaning that he’s accused of entering the United States illegally. Rivera had been living in the Brooklyn, Iowa, area for around four to seven years. Rivera is from Mexico and had allegedly seen Mollie out jogging in the past.

Rivera reportedly told investigators that he spotted Mollie jogging near Middle and Boundary Streets, when he slowed down and started following her in his black Chevrolet Malibu.

At some point, Rivera got out of the vehicle and began following the University of Iowa student by foot, even jogging alongside her. Apparently frightened, Mollie told the suspect she would call 911, then pulled out her phone, according to Rivera’s reported admission. Rivera said he became upset and “blacked out” at the threat, something he claimed he did often when becoming too angry.

Rivera allegedly told investigators the next thing he remembered was waking up inside his car, parked at a rural intersection. He immediately made a U-turn and drove to the entrance of a rural field. He then drove into a driveway of a cornfield. Rivera said at some point he looked down noticed Mollie’s earpiece from her earbuds or headphones lying on his lap, and “realized he put her in the truck.”

Upon checking the trunk, Rivera said he found Mollie inside, with one side of her head bloodied, according to the affidavit. The suspect said he pulled Mollie out of the trunk and dragged her by foot into a secluded area in the woods. He then tossed her over his shoulders and walked around 20 meters into the woods, where he tossed her body on the ground and covered her with corn leaves.

Rivera remains behind bars on a $5 million cash-only bail amount. Check back with CrimeOnline as additional details become available.

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[Feature Photo: Mollie Tibbetts/Handout]