Cristhian Rivera, 24, was arrested on August 21, 2018 for the death of Mollie Tibbetts, the 20-year-old from Brooklyn, Iowa. She left to go jogging on July 18 and never returned. For the next five weeks, authorities and volunteers searched for the Iowa University student. Her body was discovered on August 21, more than a month after she went missing. Rivera, a resident of rural Poweshiek County, Iowa, confessed to killing Tibbetts. Questions soon surfaced: how did he know Tibbetts, why did he do it, and is he in the country illegally? If found guilty, he faces a penalty of life in prison without parole.
To find out more about the suspect behind the story that captivated the nation, read this Cristhian Rivera wiki.
Who Is Cristhian Rivera?
Before being arrested and charged with the murder of Mollie Tibbetts, the only thing that could be said about Cristhian Bahena Rivera, 24, is that he kept a low profile. He also, it appears, did not have any criminal history.
What we can glean from Cristhian Rivera’s Facebook account is that he is originally from El Guayabillo, Guerrero, Mexico. In fact, Rivera claims in his profile that his “current city” is also Guayabillo, Guerrero, Mexico.
According to his Facebook page, Rivera studied at Preparatoria 35 in Guerrero.
Rivera is friends on Facebook with one family member, his sister Elizabeth Rivera. Like her brother, she too lists her hometown as Guayabillo, Guerrero, Mexico and education as Preparatoria 35. She currently resides in South Oceanside, California.
Rivera’s ex-girlfriend, Iris Monarrez lives in Iowa, according to her social media.
On June 15, 2013, Rivera posted on his Facebook timeline: “First Met Iris Monarrez. El mejor día de mi vida.” This translates to English as: “The best day of my life.” On September 1, 2015, he posted a picture of his daughter and tagged Monarrez in the photo.
From 2012 to 2017, Cristhian Rivera posted numerous photos on Facebook. Most of them are selfies taken in front of the bathroom mirror or in his sparsely decorated trailer. Cristhian Rivera notes on his Facebook page when he started dating Monarrez, but neither mentions when they stopped dating. But it appears as though it’s been several years since they were romantically involved.
Monarrez posted a large number of pictures on her Facebook page. While she posted a number of selfies, she also uploaded images of her and her child, her with Cristhian Rivera, and her large group of friends.
Friends that included Mollie Tibbetts on Facebook.
No one knows yet how Cristhian Rivera and Mollie Tibbetts knew each other. It’s possible they went to high school together, but there is no evidence they knew each other or even met.
Rivera Worked for a Prominent Republican
Craig Lang is a longtime Republican politician and official in Iowa. He served as the president of the Iowa Farm Bureau and the Iowa Board of Regents. In June 2018, he lost a primary in the state’s GOP race for agriculture secretary, capturing just 18.58% of the vote.
Mollie Tibbetts Vanishes While Jogging on July 18, 2018
On the day she disappeared, Tibbetts’ brother dropped her off at her boyfriend Dalton Jack’s house. He was going out of town and she was going to stay at his place and dog-sit. Before Jack left for Dubuque, Iowa, where he was working construction, he kissed Mollie goodbye.
Early that evening, Mollie Tibbetts went for a jog. She was last seen at around 7:30 p.m. while out for a run in the small town of Brooklyn, Iowa. She was wearing gym shorts, a black sports bra, and running shoes.
For the next five weeks, state and local police, the FBI, and volunteers searched for Mollie Tibbetts. There was also a nearly $400,000 reward for information leading to the discovery of Mollie Tibbetts.
For more on the victim, see: Mollie Tibbetts Wiki: What Happened to Iowa Student Last Seen Jogging?
August 21, 2018 – Rivera Charged with First-Degree Murder
While canvassing the Brooklyn neighborhood where Mollie Tibbetts was last seen, police were given surveillance video from a local resident. The video showed Tibbetts jogging and a black Chevrolet Malibu following behind her.
Investigators traced that car to Cristhian Rivera.
Thanks to the video, authorities were able to track down Rivera’s driving pattern and the routes he took. They were able to determine that Cristhian Rivera was one of the last people to have seen Tibbetts out for a jog.
Armed with this information, police approached Rivera on Monday, August 20. He spoke to them freely and without incident. DCI Special Agent Richard Rahn said Rivera “was very compliant. He was willing to talk to us. There was no fight or struggle of any kind.”
Cristhian Rivera Confesses to Murdering Mollie Tibbetts
According to investigators, while being interviewed, Cristhian Rivera essentially confessed to everything. He said he approached Tibbetts and pursued her in his car in an area east of Brooklyn. He parked the car, got out, and began running behind and beside her.
A concerned Mollie Tibbetts grabbed her phone and said to Rivera, “I’m gonna call the police.” This simple gesture caused Cristhian Rivera to panic and become angry. Or so he says. He claims he does not remember what happened next; everything went black.
Rivera claims he “came to” while driving his car. Only then did he realize her dead body was in the trunk of his car. Rivera went to the trunk and took the body out. He saw blood on both sides of her head.
Cristhian Rivera then took Mollie Tibbetts’ body “about 20 meters” (65 feet) into a cornfield. He then covered her body with corn leaves, face up.
Rivera Leads Investigators to the Body of Mollie Tibbetts
The next morning, Tuesday, August 21, Cristhian Rivera led authorities to a cornfield in rural Poweshiek County, where they found the body of Mollie Tibbetts covered in corn leaves. Her clothing was also found at the scene.
During a press conference later that day, police confirmed that they had found the body of Mollie Tibbetts and charged Cristhian Rivera with first-degree murder. If found guilty, Rivera faces a possibility of life without parole.
Is Cristhian Rivera in the U.S. Illegally?
During the news conference, police revealed that Rivera has been living in the U.S. illegally for four to seven years. This set off a firestorm. For weeks, the immigration status of Cristhian Rivera has been the subject of intense scrutiny and dispute.
Rivera’s employer, Yarrabee Farms, said in a statement, “This individual has worked at our farms for four years, was vetted through the government’s E-Verify system, and was an employee in good standing. On Monday, authorities visited our farm and talked to our employees. We cooperated fully with their investigation.”
The politically charged narrative of an illegal immigrant from Mexico murdering an all-American girl led to outrage from some Republicans, including President Donald Trump and Iowa’s governor, Kim Reynolds.
Trump talked about the case at a rally in West Virginia hours after Rivera’s arrest:
“You heard about today with the illegal alien coming in, very sadly, from Mexico and you saw what happened to that incredible, beautiful young woman,” Trump said. “Should’ve never happened. Illegally in our country. We’ve had a huge impact, but the laws are so bad. The immigration laws are such a disgrace, we’re getting them changed, but we have to get more Republicans. We have to get ’em.”
Iowa Governor Reynolds issued a statement saying, “We are angry that a broken immigration system allowed a predator like this to live in our community, and we will do all we can bring justice to Mollie’s killer.”
Rivera’s Attorney Says His Client’s in the U.S. Legally
On the morning of Wednesday, August 22, Cristhian Rivera’s attorney, Allan Richards, disputed the claim his client is in the U.S. illegally and filed a motion for a gag order.
“The government is promoting the idea that Cristhian is not present in this jurisdiction legally,” Richards wrote. “The government’s position of promotion of this idea will prevent any notion of Cristhian’s right to a fair trial.”
He added, “Sad and sorry Trump has weighed in on this matter in national media which will poison the entire possible pool of jury members.”
To back up his claim, Richards cited Craig Lang: “Former leader of Iowa’s educational system (the Iowa Board of Regents), Craig Lang, has verified that Cristhian is in this jurisdiction legally. Craig Lang supports Cristhian’s right to be in this jurisdiction, and for the government to support any other idea of status publicly flies in the face of such statements.”
Richards wrote, “Cristhian dedicated his efforts toward honorable work in the dairy industry, has been trusted in his work with the safety of our very important milk supply to Iowa, the various states, and other notions. Cristhian deserves the court’s protection as his characterization before a jury pool.”
Yarrabee Farms Backtracks and Richards Quits
Later that afternoon, at 2:45 p.m., Yarrabee Farms held a news conference where owners backtracked on previous comments and admitted that they had not used the E-Verify system. Rivera used fake documents and a fake name to obtain employment.
“What we learned within the last 24 hours is that our employee was not who he said he was,” said Dane Lang.
At 1:05 p.m. on Thursday, August 23, Shawn Neudauer, a spokesperson for ICE, said that “law enforcement remains absolutely confident that we’ve correctly identified the suspect as an illegal alien from Mexico, based both on investigative interviews with him and on records checks.”
The back-and-forth claims started to take their toll. Allan Richards, Cristhian Rivera’s attorney, continued to suggest his client is in the U.S. legally. He did not have any new evidence to support his claim, however, and days later, he withdrew from the case.
Cristhian Rivera Changes Lawyers
It was announced on Monday, August 27, that Rivera had changed lawyers. He consented to his attorney, Allan Richards, withdrawing from his case. He also rescinded several motions that Richards had filed.
Now, Rivera is being represented by Chad Frese and Jennifer Frese of the Marshalltown firms Kaplan & Frese, LLP and Johnson, Bonzer and Barnaby PLC. The lawyers are married and work for different firms, but work in the same building in Marshalltown.
“The family reached out (to) us and we met with them first and then we met with Mr. Rivera on Friday evening and he decided to move forward with the change of counsel,” Jennifer Frese said.
Jennifer said she and her husband Chad have never worked on a case like this together. But they decided it would be a good idea for the two of them to defend Rivera because it’s such a high-profile case.
On Chad Frese’s Facebook page, he mused about the murder of Mollie Tibbetts. On August 21, 2018, the day it was announced police had found the body of Mollie Tibbetts and arrested Cristhian Rivera, he wrote:
“8:00 this morning we all start getting alerts that Mollie Tibbets [sic] had been found and was deceased.
“Shortly thereafter the scuttlebutt of the location and the fact that authorities had a suspect in custody began to circulate.
“We all knew who did it, right? It was the hog farmer who had been interviewed a number of times, taken a polygraph and had his property searched. He had stalking convictions. The digital footprint put it all together.
“All too often I am asked, ‘Chad how do you defend these criminals?’ ‘Is it because you get paid?’ ‘You don’t like these people certainly?’”
He then went on to discuss how Wayne Cheney, the hog farmer, was falsely accused by the media and armchair lawyers of killing Mollie Tibbetts.
Chad added: “Doing what I do protects the Wayne Cheney’s [sic] and everyone else who could come into the crosshairs from the power of the government and the rush to judgment by the masses.
“You see lost in the media hype will be the life of a beautiful young woman. Also lost in the mix will be the narrative of a man falsely accused. There will be no more stories about the horrors of sex trafficking committed by US citizens. It’ll all be lost in the frenzy of illegal immigration talk,” he wrote.
“It’s called the Sixth Amendment. For you bleeding heart liberals it’s just as important as the First and for you gun lovers it’s as sacred as the Second.”