Opening statements for the murder trial of Cristhian Bahena Rivera began on Wed. May 19. Rivera was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Mollie Tibbetts in 2018. The murder trial is being held in Scott County, Iowa.
On Tuesday, May 18, attorneys selected eight women and seven men to serve on the jury during the murder trial.
Prosecutors delivered opening statements in the courtroom on Wednesday accusing Rivera of following Tibbetts on her jog, fatally stabbing her, putting her in his vehicle and then hiding her body, according to CNN.
Tibbetts, a University of Iowa student, went missing after an evening jog on July 18, 2018. A month later, her body was found under corn stalks after a man allegedly confessed to hiding her body and leading investigators to the scene.
Officials said Rivera, a 26-year-old man of Mexican descent, came to the United States illegally and worked at an Iowa dairy farm. Rivera has pleaded not guilty to the charge of first-degree murder. Two translators are on hand to translate during the proceedings, informed Judge Joel Yates.
Rob Tibbetts, Mollie’s father, has repeatedly called on politicians to stop using her death to make points against immigration, stating that Mollie believed these views were “profoundly racist,” according to CNN.
“Sadly, others have ignored our requests. They have instead chosen to callously distort and corrupt Mollie’s tragic death to advance a cause she vehemently opposed,” Rob Tibbetts wrote in an op-ed in the Des Moines Register.
Attorney Bart Klaver delivered a timeline of Tibbett’s disappearance. Klaver said that investigators questioned Rivera after a surveillance video showed his black Chevy Malibu in the area where Tibbetts went for a jog. He revealed that Rivera admitted to driving his car, but denied knowing about her disappearance until he was shown a photo of his car in the area, according to KCCI News.
During the first day of the trial, Klaver said Rivera admitted to following Tibbetts, kidnapping her, killing her and placing her body in his trunk before placing her body in the cornfield. Klaver’s opening statements also noted that DNA evidence of Tibbett’s blood was found in Rivera’s trunk.
The prosecution called Dalton Jack, the boyfriend of Tibbetts at the time of her disappearance, and Blake Jack, the brother of Dalton, as there first two witnesses. Dalton Jack testified to being out of town for work during the week of Tibbetts’ disappearance, according to KCCI News.
If convicted, Rivera faces life in prison without parole.