Mollie Tibbetts, 20, was last seen jogging in the town of Brooklyn, Iowa, on the evening of July 18, 2018. Friends and family became concerned when she didn’t show up for work the next day and failed to respond to text messages. Volunteer searches were called off once the FBI and state authorities became involved. Five weeks later, on August 21, local police announced they had made an arrest. They have charged Cristhian Rivera, an illegal immigrant, with first-degree murder.
This Mollie Tibbetts wiki looks at the day she disappeared, the discovery of her body, the alleged events of her murder, the preliminary autopsy results, and her funeral.
|About Mollie Cecilia Tibbetts|
|Birth||May 8, 1998|
|Siblings||Jake Tibbetts, Scott Tibbetts|
|Parents||Rob Tibbetts, Laura Calderwood|
Who Was Mollie Tibbetts?
Mollie Cecilia Tibbetts, 20, was born in Oakland, California, on May 8, 1998 to Rob Tibbetts and Laura Calderwood. She had two younger brothers: first Jake Tibbetts, followed by Scott Tibbetts several years later.
The Tibbetts family moved to Brooklyn, in Poweshiek County, Iowa, when Mollie was in the fourth grade.
The small community of less than 2,000 is located off the sprawling Interstate 80. It has been nicknamed the “Highway of Death” because of the numerous unsolved disappearances linked to the route. It is an important interstate that crosses the country, from New York to San Francisco.
According to her father, Rob Tibbetts, Mollie was “extremely poised for her age and extremely mature.” He noted how she won a state speech contest in Iowa.
Mollie Tibbetts was an incoming sophomore studying psychology at the University of Iowa. She wanted to eventually get a doctorate degree and write books.
According to her Facebook profile, she worked as a day-camp intern at UnityPoint Health at the Grinnell Regional Medical Center.
Rob Tibbetts also described Mollie as being an avid jogger who loved singing along in the car to Ed Sheeran and The Beatles.
Judging by her Facebook profile, Mollie also had a lot of friends. She seemed to be a vibrant young lady, always smiling.
“As far as Mollie as a person, she’s just really lovable and has a lot of friends,” said her brother Jake Tibbetts. “She participated in a lot of things around the community. She has one of the biggest hearts.”
The above video was taken of Mollie Tibbetts the day before she disappeared. It shows her playing with a mirror, joking with friends. In another clip, the young woman is seen having fun, dancing around in a gym.
Tibbetts met Dalton Jack in 2015 after a high school football game. She was a junior and he was a senior on the football team.
The high school sweethearts had been dating for close to three years when she disappeared.
Mollie Tibbetts Last Seen Jogging July 18
On the day she disappeared, Tibbetts’ brother dropped her off at her boyfriend’s house in Brooklyn so she could dog-sit.
Dalton was living with his brother Blake Jack and his fiancée Aimee Houghton. The pair were scheduled to marry in the Dominican Republic in early August 2018. The wedding has since been postponed.
Dalton, who works in construction, was in Dubuque, Iowa, which is around 100 miles away. His brothers, meanwhile, were in Ames. So Tibbetts was taking care of the dogs.
The last time Dalton Jack saw Mollie Tibbetts was on Monday, July 16; he kissed her goodbye and left for Dubuque. He expected to see his girlfriend again on Friday, when he returned home for the weekend.
University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts was last seen at around 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 18, while out for a run in the small town of Brooklyn, Iowa. She was wearing gym shorts, a black sports bra, and running shoes.
There was a lot of misinformation about what happened next. While many believed Tibbetts disappeared while out on a jog, there was more evidence to suggest she was taken against her will from her boyfriend’s home.
“I read somewhere that she was running in a cornfield. That’s obviously not true,” said her aunt, Kim Calderwood. “The run happened and then she was at the house as far as we know. I don’t think she would’ve run in the dark.”
That theory was backed up by two messages Jack received from Tibbetts that night. She sent him a text message at 7:00 p.m. and a selfie through Snapchat. The selfie appeared to have been taken indoors, which suggested Tibbetts had taken it after she returned from her jog.
Jack says he opened the Snapchat photo at 10:00 p.m.
The Next Morning
Tibbetts didn’t answer her phone when someone at the day-camp center where she worked called the next day to find out why she hadn’t shown up for her shift. All of the calls went straight to voicemail. Tibbetts was supposed to be part of a group of 10 staff taking around 75 kids to the Poweshiek County Fair.
When Tibbetts didn’t show up to her job on Thursday morning, her boyfriend knew something was wrong. Jack then realized that his “good morning” text had gone unanswered.
“I looked at my phone and noticed I texted her good morning that morning and she hadn’t looked at it. So I got a hold of her friends and family.”
Jack was one of the first people to realize Mollie Tibbetts was gone.
“I was the one who threw red flags,” he said.
He then called her friends and family. And returned to Brooklyn.
“And then Thursday after we found out she was missing I drove home. So I was in Dubuque the entire time.”
Tibbetts’ family reported her missing on July 19, with dozens of volunteers from Brooklyn searching fields around her house and the home where she was staying. They also peppered the area with missing posters, T-shirts, and billboard pleas for help.
During the search, Jack said he continued to call Tibbetts’ missing phone, hoping she, or anyone, would pick up.
“I did for like the first week and a half. Not more recently. I was just trying to see literally if anybody would pick up. And then, yeah, straight to voicemail,” he said.
What did Jack think had happened to his girlfriend at the time?
“I mean, everybody has their own theories, but I’m just kind of leaving it up to the law enforcement trying to figure that one out,” he said. “I don’t want to go racking it through my brain thinking of what happened, what happened, what happened. Just driving myself insane.”
Mitch Mortvedt, a spokesperson with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, said that while investigators had few early leads, they were “leaning more and more toward something happening to her against her will,” including abduction.
The University of Iowa released a statement saying that they were monitoring the situation and offering support where needed.
Our thoughts are with Mollie Tibbetts’ family and friends. The University of Iowa is monitoring the situation and will offer support as needed. More information: https://t.co/NmtZv0Djqs
— University of Iowa (@uiowa) July 20, 2018
FBI and State Investigators Take Over
It didn’t take long for the investigation to expand. Within days of the disappearance, volunteer searches for Mollie Tibbetts were called off as the FBI and state investigators took over. The FBI and Iowa investigators concentrated their early efforts on areas around Brooklyn that Tibbetts was known to frequent.
Authorities also examined footage from highway surveillance cameras and convenience stores.
The FBI also studied Tibbetts’ online history, social media, mobile phone data, and app usage.
They also had a nation looking for her, with extensive media coverage.
Did Mollie’s “Fitbit” Hold the Key to Her Whereabouts?
In an effort to pinpoint where Tibbetts might have been, investigators also GPS-tracked her electronic devices, including her “Fitbit.” They executed search warrants for Mollie Tibbetts’ Fitbit, Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook accounts.
“This is a new arena for us. That’s part of the reason we called the FBI in. It’s probably pretty new to them, too,” Mortvedt said. “I don’t know of another case here in Iowa where we have used specifically Fitbit info.”
Police Question Pig Farmer with Prior Stalking Convictions
In late July, Wayne Cheney, a local pig farmer with two prior stalking convictions, had his home searched, was interviewed, and had his cell phone taken by seven FBI investigators. They did so without a search warrant.
Cheney said he “has nothing to hide.”
Authorities searched the Guernsey, Iowa property for nearly two hours, took photos of the interior of the home, and searched the man’s garage. Cheney said investigators asked to interview him off the property.
“I don’t know who those two [officers] were but they took me down to the fire station Tuesday and questioned me for two hours.” he said. “I don’t remember what they asked me.”
“I just thought it was a waste of time, but, oh well,” he added.
Police have not said if Cheney is a suspect. The farmer says he doesn’t know the Tibbetts family, but that he hoped they would all be reunited soon.
Cheney has entered guilty pleas for two unrelated stalking incidences, one in Poweshiek County in 2009 and one in Marion County in 2014.
Mollie Spotted Near a Truck Stop in Missouri?
Police were tracking down a large number of leads. One seemed encouraging.
An employee at a truck stop thought she had seen someone who looked like Mollie Tibbetts eating at a truck stop near the I-85 and Missouri 92 Highway—240 miles from her boyfriend Dalton Jack’s home.
After speaking to all possible witnesses and reviewing surveillance, police ruled out the sighting. The woman was not Tibbetts.
Police Look into Man Who Secretly Photographed Teen Joggers
Police tracked down another lead. This one included a man taking secret pictures of female joggers.
A man in his 30s was caught on camera taking photos of teenage girls jogging. He was spotted in his car on surveillance video from a body shop, taking pictures with a digital camera.
“As covertly as he possibly could, [he] took photos of them unbeknownst to them; it seemed to be very creepy,” said Pella Police Chief Robert Bokinsky.
The unknown individual turned himself into police in Pella, Iowa—which is an hour southwest of Brooklyn—because of pressure on social media. The man, believed to be from Des Moines, explained to police why he took the pictures, but authorities were not disclosing that information. Nor were they disclosing his name.
Police said they didn’t believe the man had anything to do with the Tibbetts case.
Red Shirt Tied to Tibbetts Located Near Previously Searched Farm
On Wednesday, August 1, Mollie Tibbetts was supposed to leave with Dalton Jack for his brother’s wedding in the Dominican Republic. She was supposed to be the maid of honor. The groom, Blake Jack, had joked with his brother that he should propose to Tibbetts on the trip.
On August 2, it was announced that search teams were looking through ditches near the pig farm owned by Wayne Cheney, after a red shirt, tied to Mollie Tibbetts, was found nearby.
Thanks to information gleaned from Tibbetts’ digital footprint, investigators had been searching a number of pig farms and other properties in Iowa. No traces of Mollie Tibbetts had been found, until now.
The red shirt was the first major potential clue discovered since the search for Tibbetts began on July 19.
A person mowing near the previously searched pig farm called police after discovering a red shirt they thought might be linked to Mollie Tibbetts. Police didn’t say if it belonged to the missing woman, but employees at the day camp where she worked confirmed their uniform included a red shirt.
Cheney denied knowing Tibbetts, but suspected “some guy” had her.
He continued to allow investigators access to his phone and property for searches, but he refused to take a polygraph test.
Parents Believed Mollie Tibbetts Was Likely Alive
On August 2, Mollie Tibbetts’ family announced the formation of a reward fund to help find the 20-year-old. At a press conference, Tibbetts’ mother, Laura Calderwood, said that in just one day, the Bring Mollie Tibbetts Home Safe Reward Fund had raised $172,000.
“We believe Mollie is still alive and if someone abducted her, we are pleading with you to please release her,” Calderwood said during the press conference. “It is our greatest hope that if someone has her, they will just release her.
“Every day, I feel Mollie’s presence with me,” she added. “Sometimes I just feel her sitting on my shoulder. She was an incredibly strong young woman. Mollie is lending me here strength every day, every night.”
Rob Tibbetts, her father, urged anyone with information about Mollie Tibbetts, no matter how trivial they thought it might be, to come forward.
“This is a fight for our daughter,” Rob Tibbetts said. “She’s out there. We feel it. This going to be solved by someone coming forward with information. Someone knows what happened to Mollie, someone knows where she is, and they need to come forward.”
When asked what message he would offer his daughter, Rob Tibbetts said, “Hang in there, pie…hang in there, pie.”
Police Make Arrest in Murder of Mollie Tibbetts
The search for Mollie Tibbetts came to a tragic end.
In an August 21, 2018 press conference, the Poweshiek County sheriff’s office confirmed that they had located the body of Mollie Tibbetts. The news came just one week after investigators said they were focusing their efforts on five locations.
Not only that, but police have laid first-degree murder charges against Cristhian Bahena Rivera, 24. If found guilty, Rivera faces a possibility of life without parole.
According to police, Rivera has been living illegally in the U.S. for four to seven years, but is from Guayabillo in Guerrero, Mexico.
At the time of Tibbetts’ disappearance, Rivera was living in Brooklyn, Iowa, working for a dairy farm. The employer had put him and other migrant workers up in an area farmhouse.
The arrest announcement came less than two weeks after police had said her abductor was “hiding in plain sight” and asked for help from the public.
What Happened to Mollie Tibbetts?
According to investigators, it was during neighborhood canvasing that police were given security footage from a residential camera on the east side of Brooklyn. In it, police saw a black or dark-colored Chevy Malibu driving around.
The area in which Mollie was captured on video running with the Malibu nearby was Boundary St. and Middle St. in Brooklyn.
“Through that we were able to identify a vehicle that we believed belonged to Mr. Rivera,” said Rick Rahn of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation. “From that we were able to track his patterns and the routes that he took. We were also able to find Mollie running on this video and we were able to determine that he was one of the last ones to have seen Mollie running.”
Police said Rivera was cooperative and did not put up a fight when confronted by police on Monday, August 20.
According to Rivera, he saw her out running that night at around 7:30 p.m. and followed her in his black car. He got out of his car and began running behind and then beside her.
Rivera said Mollie Tibbetts pulled out her cell phone and threatened to call police if he didn’t leave her alone. She then ran away. He caught up to her and then, he claims, “blacked out.”
During this blackout, it’s alleged he killed the young woman. It is not yet known how Mollie died. It’s also not known if she was sexually assaulted.
“He followed her and seemed to be drawn to her on that particular day. For whatever reason he chose to abduct her,” Rahn added.
Rivera told police he had seen her in the area before. But it is not known if they actually knew each other. She is friends on Facebook with the mother of his daughter.
According to the affidavit, Rivera came to after his blackout sitting in a truck at an intersection in rural Poweshiek County. He drove to a driveway near a cornfield, where he parked.
At that time, Rivera said that he noticed the earpiece of a set of headphones in his lap. At that time, he said he remembered that he’d put Tibbetts in his trunk.
When he opened the trunk, he saw blood on the side of her head.
Rivera told police that he dragged Mollie Tibbetts out of his trunk and into a cornfield. He slung her over his shoulder and transported her about 20 more meters into the field. He placed her face up and covered her with some corn leaves.
After his arrest and interview, Rivera led police to a farm field southeast of Brooklyn, Iowa where they located the body of Mollie Tibbetts. According to Rahn, the cornfield was along 460th Avenue, in a rural area south of Brooklyn.
Poweshiek County Sheriff Tom Kriegel said, “Our hearts go out to the Tibbetts family and to the Brooklyn community. It is a loss for all of us.”
Tibbetts Family Releases Statement on Their Grief and Gratitude
Mollie Tibbetts’ family released a statement after her body was discovered. It read:
“Our hearts are broken.
“On behalf of Mollie’s entire family, we thank all of those from around the world who have sent their thoughts and prayers for our girl. We know that many of you will join us as we continue to carry Mollie in our hearts forever.
“At this time, our family asks that we be allowed the time to process our devastating loss and share our grief in private.
“Again, thank you for the outpouring of love and support that has been shared in Mollie’s name. We remain forever grateful.”
Mollie’s Brother Jake Tibbett Speaks at Vigil
On Wednesday, August 22, Mollie’s brother Jake Tibbetts spoke at a vigil in Iowa City. He asked everyone to remember the good over the bad and to appreciate how people came together to help after his sister had disappeared.
“Remember this as a time that the country came together for one girl,” Jake said. “One girl that loved everyone. One girl that loved everything and wanted the best for everyone. Don’t remember this as the time that someone made a very poor decision and took a girl away.
“We’re going to miss her dearly but, to be honest, what made her so special is she was just like anyone standing here. She loved to run. She loved Harry Potter. She loved the hawks. She loved her family. She was goofy. She was clumsy,” he added.
Mollie Tibbetts’ Family Doesn’t Want Her Death Politicized
After it was announced that authorities had arrested Rivera for Tibbetts’ murder, her family said they do not want her death politicized and used to promote a crackdown on immigration.
However, President Donald Trump was quick to pounce and turned Mollie Tibbetts’ murder into a mid-term-election talking point, using it as a rallying cry for tougher immigration laws.
At a rally in Charleston, West Virginia on August 22, Trump said, “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. Should’ve never happened… The laws are so bad, the immigration laws are such a disgrace. We’re getting it changed, but we have to get more Republicans [into office].”
In a video posted the same day, Trump used the death of Tibbetts to promote his election campaign promise of building a wall along the Mexico border.
“We need the wall,” he says in the video. “We need our immigration laws changed. We need our border laws changed. We need Republicans to do it, because the Democrats aren’t going to do it.”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 22, 2018
Billie Jo Calderwood, an aunt of Mollie Tibbetts, said, “I don’t want Mollie’s memory to get lost amongst politics. It’s not about race, it’s about people joining together to do good.”
Tibbetts’ second cousin, Sam Lucas, also spoke out on Twitter, taking aim at conservative activist Candace Owens for using her death to attack illegal immigrants.
hey i’m a member of mollie’s family and we are not so fucking small-minded that we generalize a whole population based on some bad individuals. now stop being a fucking snake and using my cousins death as political propaganda. take her name out of your mouth. https://t.co/xxZNBF0Uv9
— sam (@samlucasss) August 22, 2018
Breck Goodman, a friend of Mollie Tibbetts, said, “I also know what Mollie stood for…and she would not approve. So I don’t want her death to be used as propaganda. I don’t want her death to be used for more prejudice and for more discrimination, and I don’t think she would want that, either.”
Preliminary Autopsy Finds Mollie Tibbetts Died from Stabbing
Preliminary autopsy results released by the Iowa state medical examiner show that Mollie Tibbetts died of “multiple sharp-force injuries.”
Sharp-force injuries are those caused by pointed or sharp-edged objects, such as with stab wounds, incised wounds, and chop wounds.
No further details were released about what caused Tibbetts’ injuries.
Funeral Held for Mollie Tibbetts
Close to 2,000 people packed Brooklyn Guernsey and Malcom High School for the funeral of Mollie Tibbetts.
Rob Tibbetts, Mollie’s father, told the mourners, “Mollie is nobody’s victim. Mollie’s my hero.
“And, today, it’s time to turn the page. We’re at the end of a long ordeal, but now we need to turn toward life. We need to heal—this community needs to heal, our family needs to heal, but the problem with that is the person best equipped to help us through this is Mollie. So, let’s try to do what Mollie would do. Let’s say what Mollie would say. Let’s start with baby steps.”
Rob encouraged the crowd to smile at the person next to them, take the hands of those they love, and take time each day to “live like Mollie did,” with compassion and kindness.
He also thanked those who helped search for Mollie.
“You want to know the secret of why there was this outpouring of support for Mollie? It’s because we see ourselves in Mollie—it’s because we are a part of her,” he said.
Jake Tibbetts also spoke at his sister’s funeral. He reflected on the media-perpetuated image of Mollie as the perfect, all-American girl after her disappearance. But she was, first and foremost, he said, just like everyone else.
“Mollie was not perfect,” he said. “She was the first to tell you about her imperfections, the first to admit it. She owned up to her mistakes and laughed out loud when Scott (Tibbetts) and I pointed them out and teased her.”
Father Corey Close, pastor at St. Patrick’s Church in Brooklyn, said, “When I think of the life of Mollie Tibbetts and her tragic death, I wonder why she is gone and I am still here.
“When I hear the many stories of who she was, of how she touched people’s lives, of her infectious joy and smile, I wonder by what rights I have to be living when she, who had so much promise and so much love to give, should have her life cut short. I see Mollie as a bright shining light, touching the lives of those who knew her.”
Close encouraged the crowd to take a page from Mollie’s book and “rededicate [themselves] to living a good life, a faithful life, a life of goodness and compassion.”