MONTEZUMA, Iowa – The hearing of a motion to suppress the confession of Mollie Tibbetts alleged killer wrapped up on Thursday, the second day of the hearing, after defense attorneys called their last expert witness.
Iowa Judge Joel Yates said he will now consider everything he heard in court over the last two days and make his decision as soon as possible.
Cristhian Bahena Rivera, the man charged with Mollie Tibbetts’ murder, did not testify during the hearing on Thursday.
Judge Yates said if Cristhian Rivera’s defense entered a written affidavit of testimony from him – the prosecution would have the chance to cross-examine him in open court.
Rather than put their client on the stand, Rivera’s attorneys chose not to submit the affidavit.
Rivera’s attorneys claim he wasn’t read his Miranda warning properly and early interviews with investigators, in which he allegedly confessed to killing Tibbetts, should not be allowed as part of his trial.
During the first day of the hearing on Wednesday, Pamlea Romero said she did not read Rivera his Miranda Rights from a card or form, she gave them to him from memory.
The state’s attorneys chose not to call their final witness on Thursday, then Rivera’s attorneys called some of his family members to take the stand.
Both of the family members that testified said they went to the Poweshiek County Sheriff’s Office the night Rivera was being questioned.
Cristhian Rivera’s Aunt, Alejandra Cervantes Valle said they were there for hours before they heard anything about Rivera.
“And then I said to her we’ve been waiting here for several hours no one has given us any information or spoken to us and I want to know if we need to call an attorney or someone,” said Cervantes Valle.
She said they were told, “Oh no, we are on the last round of questions and in 10 or 15 minutes he is going to leave.”
Expert witness Dr. Kimberly Fenn was also questioned Thursday morning, her area of expertise is sleep deprivation.
Rivera’s defense attorneys called Criminal Case Consultant Brian Leslie to the stand as their final expert witness.
Leslie said he specializes in examining law enforcement interviews and interrogations.
He said in the videos of the interview with Rivera that he reviewed, he found that investigators used coercive techniques to get information from Rivera.
“I did find areas that are. When I use the word coercive, I use the words as pertaining to the sleep deprivation aspect that would affect that I believe and these are minimizations. Which I have found minimizations throughout in all seven videos,” Leslie said.
Leslie said throughout those videos of the interview he noted 60 times when Rivera was tired and even falling asleep, something several law enforcement officers denied on the first day of testimony.
Tibbetts, a 20-year-old University of Iowa student, was jogging in her hometown of Brooklyn in July of 2018 when she disappeared. Just over a month later investigators say Rivera led them to her body, which had been concealed in a Poweshiek County cornfield.
Rivera’s trial is scheduled for February 4th in Woodbury County.