Mollie Tibbetts murder trial: Cristhian Bahena Rivera guilty of first degree murder of Iowa student who was jogging after illegal migrant stalked her and stabbed her to death.
Cristhian Bahena Rivera, 26, was found guilty of Tibbetts’ murder two days after he denied fatally stabbing the 20-year-old woman during his trial in Davenport, Iowa.
Bahena Rivera will be sentenced July 15. He faces up to life in prison without parole. Bahena Rivera came to the U.S. illegally from Mexico as a teenager, foxnews reported.
The convicted murderer had claimed that two armed mystery men commandeered his car and ordered him to repeatedly drive by the University of Iowa student until they got out of the car and killed her.
He said he discovered the woman’s body in his trunk only after the two men ran off from his car. Of note, Bahena Rivera admitted to dumping her body in a cornfield.
Prosecutors: ‘a figment of his imagination’
‘I picked her up, and then I put her in the cornfield,’ he testified, adding that he covered Tibbetts’ body with corn stalks because he ‘didn’t want her to be too exposed to the sun.’
The farmhand worker insisted that he didn’t go to the police because he was ‘scared’ since it wouldn’t have been ‘seen as good [or] right.’
Prosecutor Scott Brown called Bahena Rivera’s testimony ‘a figment of his imagination.’
Police investigators said they broke the case about a month after Tibbetts’ disappearance when they tracked down surveillance video that showed a person, apparently the young woman, running in the distance and a Chevy Malibu driving by her soon after.
A deputy in town saw Bahena Rivera driving in the same car the next day. Police then questioned the farmhand, who admitted driving by Tibbetts, then turning around and passing her again because he found her attractive.
Police later found Tibbetts’ DNA in the trunk of the Malibu.
It took the Iowa jury just seven hours to convict the killer. The trial lasted two weeks.
Defense plan to appeal verdict
After the verdict, Prosecutor Brown said the Tibbetts family was ‘relieved’ and pleased with the decision.
‘This was the verdict that the evidence demanded,’ said one of the Poweshiek County prosecutors in the case, Bart Klaver.
Bahena Rivera’s lawyers said they would appeal their client’s conviction based on their long-standing argument that his statements to cops were coerced.
Chad Frese said he and the defense team were ‘disappointed’ by the verdict.
‘Anytime you have a client who gives a statement like he did, and the fact that there was DNA evidence in the trunk and the fact that he led them to the body, it makes it extraordinarily difficult,’ he told reporters after the decision was announced.
Frese said Bahena Rivera had no history of violence and worked to avoid police, given that he was living in the country illegally. He said it made no sense that his client would be ‘brazen enough to pick up a woman, abduct her and maybe kill her in a span of 10 to 20 minutes.’
‘Folks this was planned, not by him but by someone else,’ Frese said.
The case has re-ignited debate as to illegal immigration in the United States and calls for harsher measures to clamp down on migrants crossing the border along with the denunciation of rights upon making it to the United States.