Jury Selection for Mollie Tibbetts’ Accused Killer Begins Monday

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DAVENPORT, Iowa — It’s been nearly three years since Mollie Tibbetts went missing and was found murdered. Starting Monday, a jury will finally be selected to determine the fate of her accused killer, Cristhian Rivera.

Tibbetts was a 20-year-old University of Iowa student who grew up in Brooklyn. The trial of her accused killer is taking place in Scott County due to concerns about finding an impartial jury.

Rivera faces one count of first-degree murder in her death. His trial was originally scheduled for April of 2019, but has been pushed back several times. Some delays were due to the pandemic while others were due to decisions on evidence.

Cristhian Rivera appears in court for a pretrial hearing on April 15, 2021. (WHO 13)

Because English is not Rivera’s first language, there have been questions about whether his rights were violated during the investigation or whether his conversation with law enforcement should be used in court. The Iowa Supreme Court eventually decided that it could be used during the trial.

Even though it’s taken nearly three years to get the case to trial, the events of her disappearance, finding her body, and finding the suspect only took a month.

The last time Mollie was seen alive was July 18 of 2018, when she left her boyfriend’s house to go on a run. He was out of town for work at the time.

On July 19, she did not show up for work at the children’s day camp at the Grinnell Regional Medical Center and was reported missing that same day.

On July 24, the FBI began assisting local law enforcement in the search for Mollie.

A reward fund to find her grew to more than $300,000. Mollie’s family, boyfriend, and members of the Brooklyn community were trying to bring awareness in other ways. They wore t-shirts and handed out fliers with her picture on them at RAGBRAI and the Iowa State Fair. 

“It’s where all Iowans come together once a year and can’t think of a better, more crowded venue to get people to think about where Mollie is and how we get her back,” Rob Tibbetts, Mollie’s dad, said back in 2018.

Mollie’s body was found on Aug. 21 in a cornfield near Guernsey. That same day, authorities announced that 24-year-old Cristhian Rivera had been charged with first-degree murder in her death. Investigators say they had found Rivera through some security camera footage and when brought in for questioning, he led them to her body. Her autopsy showed she died of “multiple sharp force wounds.”

Jury selection begins at 9:00 a.m. Monday. The court plans to summon up to 400 jurors, with nearly half going before attorneys for questions.

Opening statements are expected to begin on Wednesday, and the trial will be aired on Court TV and streamed online.

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