MollieTibbettsWorld News

Mollie Tibbetts: Farm worker gets life for murdering Iowa student

image sourceReuters

image captionMs Tibbetts was a student at the University of Iowa

A farm worker has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murder of student Mollie Tibbetts.

Cristhian Bahena Rivera had been found guilty of her murder in May.

The 20-year-old University of Iowa student disappeared after going out for a run near her home in July 2018.

The case inflamed tensions over illegal immigration as 27-year-old Bahena Rivera was an undocumented Mexican migrant.

Shortly after his arrest, then President Donald Trump blamed US immigration laws for Ms Tibbetts’ death – prompting the student’s family to plead with politicians not to use her death to “advance a cause she vehemently opposed”.

Her disappearance also sparked a nationwide discussion about the dangers women face when out running.

image sourceIowa Police Handout

image captionCristhian Bahena Rivera testified he came to the US illegally from Mexico as a teenager

Sentencing Rivera, Judge Joel Yates told him “you and you alone forever changed the lives of those who loved Mollie Tibbetts”.

Judge Yates had delayed sentencing in July to allow the defence to investigate two claims, made after the jury found him guilty, that suggested others may have been responsible for the killing.

But earlier this month, he concluded the new information was unreliable and saw no reason to overturn the verdict.

Defence lawyers say they plan to appeal.

Prosecutors said Ms Tibbetts family were “relieved” and “pleased” with the sentence.

image sourceGetty Images

image captionA missing poster for Mollie Tibbetts in Brooklyn, Iowa shortly after her disappearance in 2018

Rivera was arrested a month after Ms Tibbetts went missing, after CCTV showed his car had repeatedly passed her as she was running on a rural road outside her hometown of Brooklyn, Iowa. Her DNA was later found in his car.

He told police that he had approached her because he found her attractive, got angry with her when she threatened to call 911, and then “blacked out”.

He said he when he regained consciousness, he found her bleeding in his vehicle’s boot and buried her in a corn field, later leading police to the spot.

During his trial, however, Rivera changed his story saying two masked men had kidnapped him and forced him to take part in the killing.

Prosecutors dismissed this version, saying it was inconsistent with the evidence. He was unanimously found guilty by a 12-member jury.

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