Iowa farmworker gets life in prison for murder of Molly Tibbets
A farmworker was sentenced Monday to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole in the fatal stabbing of an Iowa college student in 2018, a crime that Donald J. Trump seized on the presidency as he extended his harsh policies against illegal immigration.
Farmworker Cristian Bahena Rivera, was convicted in May of the kidnapping and murder of 20-year-old Molly Tibbets of the University of Iowa, who went missing after going for a run.
It took more than a month for Mr. Bahena Rivera to lead investigators to Ms. Tibbets’ body, which was hidden in a corn field outside her hometown of Brooklyn, Iowa.
The arrest of Mr Bahena Rivera, who officials described as an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, immediately caught Mr Trump’s attention. The president sought to use the case to his political advantage during the 2018 midterm election and in his efforts to build a border wall.
Mr Bahena Rivera, 27, was expressionless as a caseworker, the state attorney general’s office read Monday in a victim impact statement written by Ms Tibbets’ mother, Laura Calderwood, in a district court in Montezuma, Iowa.
Ms Calderwood said in the statement that her daughter has much to see as of the evening of July 18, 2018.
“You chose to end that life violently and tragically,” said Ms Calderwood. “Who could harm such a beautiful, vibrant young woman full of life and promise?”
Ms Calderwood said she would never recover from her daughter’s murder and from telling Ms Tibbets’ grandmother and other family members that her body had been found.
Because of Mr. Bahena Rivera’s actions, she said, Ms. Tibbets’ boyfriend would never be able to give her the engagement ring he had received for her.
“Because of your actions, Mollie’s father, Rob, will never find his only daughter walking down the aisle,” said Ms Calderwood. “Because of your actions, Mr. Rivera, I will never be able to see my daughter become a mother.”
Mr Bahena Rivera, who plans to appeal his conviction, did not speak to the sentence. His lawyers also declined to comment.
In Iowa, the conviction for first-degree murder carries a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment. Mr Bahena Rivera’s lawyers unsuccessfully tried to argue that the murder was committed by someone else.
During his trial, The Des Moines Register reported, Mr. Bahena Rivera testified that two armed and masked men had confronted him in his home and ordered him to be taken to Brooklyn, where one of them told Ms. Tibbets. Killed him, put his body inside. his trunk and ordered him to go to a corn field.
Eighth Judicial District Judge Joel D. Yates dismissed that defense during sentencing.
“Mr. Bahena Rivera, you and you alone changed the lives of those who love Molly Tibet forever,” said Judge Yates.
The judge also ordered Mr. Bahena Rivera to pay $150,000 in damages to the family of Ms. Tibbetts, and acquitted her of bond, appealing her conviction.
Ms. Tibbets, a psychology student and summer camp counselor, was raised in San Francisco and Brooklyn, a small town between Des Moines and Cedar Rapids.
According to investigators, blood matching her DNA was found in the trunk of Mr Bahena Rivera’s car, which was captured on a home security camera where Ms Tibbets was running.
A Special Assistant State Attorney General Scott de Brown called the evidence against Mr. Bahena Rivera “overwhelming” and said it supported life imprisonment.
“Based on the facts and circumstances of the case,” said Mr. Brown, “it is very well deserved.”
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