Mollie Tibbetts’ disappearance, murder were not the end of her story
In her final moments, Mollie Tibbetts fought to live. Since her murder, Mollie’s family and hometown have fought for her legacy. (4:34)
Kelsey Kremer, Des Moines Register
Judge Joel Yates will hear arguments Tuesday on whether to grant Cristhian Bahena Rivera’s request for a new trial in the 2018 murder of Mollie Tibbetts.
Tibbetts, a 20-year-old University of Iowa student, disappeared while jogging near her hometown of Brooklyn, and her remains were found more than a month later hidden in a cornfield. Bahena, a local farmhand, was charged with murder after he led investigators to her body. He was found guilty in May after a two-week trial.
On July 8, Bahena’s attorneys filed a motion seeking a new trial, saying two new witnesses had come forward after hearing Bahena’s trial testimony — that he’d been forced to help two masked men who threatened his family to find and kill Tibbetts — both saying that another man, Gavin Jones, had confessed to them on separate occasions he had been the one to kill Tibbetts.
More: Cristhian Bahena Rivera was to be sentenced earlier this month for Mollie Tibbetts’ murder. Instead, his attorneys offer new spin on case.
In subsequent filings, Bahena’s attorneys alleged the state had failed to provide relevant evidence, including about another man, James Lowe, who was investigated but not charged in a sex trafficking case in 2019 in Mahaska County, who they argue might have been connected both to Tibbetts’ death and other disappearances in the area, including the May 2021 disappearance of 11-year-old Xavior Harrelson.
Yates denied a request to force prosecutors to turn over information about that and other investigations, and scheduled a daylong hearing starting at 9 a.m. Tuesday for the motion for retrial. Court filings show at least five subpoenas have been issued for the hearing, and that defense attorneys intend to bring in evidence of other criminal allegations against Jones, who has denied any involvement with Tibbetts’ death.
In a motion filed by the state’s prosecutors Monday, Assistant Attorney General Scott Brown and Poweshiek County Attorney Bart Klaver asked that Yates quash subpoenas issued by the defense to Mahaska County Sheriff Russell Van Renterghem, Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation Agent Adam DeCamp and any other law enforcement officer or agency that might be involved in sex trafficking investigations from January 2018 to the present.
In the motion, prosecutors argue that the subpoenas are “overbroad and not related to this case,” quoting from Yates’ July 18 decision on a previous motion that “such requests are a ‘fishing expedition’” for information “no relevance to or connection with the disappearance and murder of Mollie Tibbetts.”
More on the Mollie Tibbetts case:
William Morris covers courts for the Des Moines Register. He can be contacted at email@example.com, 715-573-8166 or on Twitter at @DMRMorris.
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