BROOKLYN, Iowa — The search for Mollie Tibbetts is over, but the search for answers in the 20-year-old college student’s death continues.
An autopsy is scheduled to be completed Wednesday to determine how Mollie died.
For more than a month Mollie’s family, friends, and the nation held out hope that she would be found alive, but Tuesday those hopes were dashed when a body believed to be Mollie’s was found in rural Poweshiek County.
Mollie had last been seen on July 18 while she was jogging around Brooklyn, taking a path she’d run countless times before. She never returned from that run and when Mollie failed to show up to work the next morning a search began.
Mollie’s name and face were plastered on buildings and vehicles across Iowa and the country, but for weeks there were no leads and no signs of her, until Tuesday.
Investigators with the Iowa DCI say video footage from a home on the east side of Brooklyn provided a major break in the case that led to a murder suspect.
A criminal complaint in the case says the video showed Mollie jogging in the area of Boundary and Middle streets and a black Chevy Malibu that drove back and forth in the area several times. Investigators were able to determine the car belonged to 24-year-old Cristhian Bahena Rivera.
Investigators contacted him Monday and he admitted to making contact with Mollie while she was running and said he pursued her in his vehicle. He parked and ran alongside her and behind her and told investigators Mollie grabbed her phone and said “I’m gonna call the police.”
According the complaint, Rivera became mad, “and that he then ‘blocked’ his ‘memory’ which is what he does when he gets very upset and doesn’t remember anything after that until he came to an intersection.”
The complaint says Rivera told authorities when he became aware again he noticed an ear piece from a headphone in his lap and realized he put Mollie in the trunk. He went to get her out of the trunk “and noticed blood on the side of her head.”
Rivera described Mollie’s clothing to investigators and then described how and where he hid Mollie’s body. They found her body Tuesday morning in a corn field, concealed under corn leaves, near the intersection of Highway 21 and 460th Avenue in Poweshiek County.
DCI investigators say Rivera is an illegal immigrant and had been living in the area between four and seven years.
Rivera is charged with first degree murder in Mollie’s death and is being held on a $1 million bond in the Poweshiek County Jail. He is expected to make his initial court appearance Wednesday in Montezuma.