Search for Mollie Tibbetts comes to tragic end

Cristhian Rivera is led out of a Poweshiek County Courtroom after his initial appearance on August 22 (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette/Pool).

Special Agent In Charge Rick Rahn announces the discovery of Mollie Tibbetts' body and first-degree murder charges against Cristhian Rivera on August 21.

Brooklyn, Iowa- The July 18 disappearance and subsequent search for Mollie Tibbetts has captured the hearts of Iowans, and a nation as a whole, as everyone followed along, hoping for positive news. However, those hopes were shattered on the morning of August 21 when national media outlets began to report the worst: Mollie’s body had been found. By late morning hours, a press release from the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation confirmed that a body had been found but declined to go into much detail, pending a press conference. At 4 pm on August 21, Special Agent-In-Charge Rick Rahn stepped up to a podium and announced to the nation that investigators had discovered a body they believed to be that of Mollie Tibbetts. In addition, investigators announced that 24-year-old Cristhian Rivera, of Poweshiek County, had been charged with first-degree murder in her disappearance. Authorities also confirmed during the press conference that they believe Rivera to be an illegal alien.


            According to Rahn, a home surveillance camera provided authorities with a big break in the case. Just one week before, authorities, at an August 14 press conference, urged the public to provide any information regarding Mollie’s disappearance they thought might be helpful to investigators. Authorities also asked members of the public who had been in certain areas of Brooklyn and Poweshiek County on July 18-19 to contact authorities with any information they may have. Days after that press conference, a homeowner in Brooklyn turned over home surveillance camera footage. Rahn said that authorities spent “hours” reviewing the footage looking for any evidence of Mollie. The footage showed a black Malibu, later determined to be driven by Cristhian Rivera, circling the area multiple times.


            “We were also able to find Mollie running on this video and we were able to determine he was one of the last people to have seen Mollie running, based on the video that we were able to seize from the general public,” Rahn said. “The video was critical. I’ll put it that way,” he added.


            After authorities were able to identify Rivera as the driver, Rahn said they located him and conducted a “lengthy” interview with him. Rahn said that Rivera was willing to speak with authorities and had been compliant.


            “During that interview he tells us that he sees Mollie running and was able… to approach her. While he was interfacing with her he actually tells us that he ran alongside of her or behind her. And then at one point he tells us that Mollie grabs her phone and says ‘you need to leave me alone, I’m gonna call the police.’ Then she took off running. He in turn chased her down. And then tells us at some point that he blacks out and then he comes to near an intersection near which we believe he placed Mollie,” Rahn said of the interview.


For more on this story and others, catch the August 29 edition of the News-Review.