A judge on Monday sentenced convicted murderer Cristhian Bahena Rivera, 26, to life in prison without parole for murdering University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts, 20. This was the mandatory sentence under the law.
In May, jurors found Bahena Rivera attacked Tibbetts in 2018 while she was jogging and then dumped the victim’s body in a cornfield.
A prosecutor’s assistant read the victim impact statement on behalf of Tibbetts’ mother Laura Calderwood.
In the statement, Calderwood said she stepped forward to give a voice for her daughter. She highlighted the brutality of the crime and detailed what it was like having to tell loved ones about Tibbetts’ death. Calderwood described the widespread harm Bahena Rivera caused: Tibbetts’ boyfriend Dalton Jack was never able to give Mollie the engagement ring he brought for her; Calderwood never got to see her daughter become a mother. Calderwood even voiced empathy for Bahena Rivera’s daughter, who would one day have to explain to her children who their grandfather is.
Bahena Rivera confessed to investigators that he killed Tibbetts, prosecutors said at trial. In this account, he saw Tibbetts jogging in Brooklyn, Iowa, approached her, blacked out (ostensibly wiping his memory of the murder), and hid her body in a cornfield.
Bahena Rivera walked back this confession in testimony, attempting to argue that two unknown men abducted him from his living room at gunpoint and knifepoint, forced him to drive them around, and then one of them killed Tibbetts. Even after his conviction, his defense attorneys tried to seek a new trial, saying a jailhouse witness could testify to hearing another inmate confess to killing Tibbetts with another individual and framing an unnamed Hispanic man for the crime.
Jurors did not believe Bahena Rivera’s testimony, and the defense’s post-trial argument only pushed back sentencing to Monday.
“In reviewing the evidence and testimony provided at trial, the court finds the verdict was not contrary to the weight of the evidence,” wrote Judge Joel Yates, according to The Associated Press.
[Screenshot via Law&Crime Network]
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