A 24-year-old undocumented immigrant accused of murdering missing college student Mollie Tibbets has been arrested and charged in her death, authorities in Iowa announced Tuesday.
Cristhian Rivera, an illegal alien in Iowa for roughly four to seven years, was identified as Tibbetts' alleged killer, Rick Rahn of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation confirmed at a press conference.
Rivera led authorities to the body — likely Tibbetts' remains — hidden on farmland southeast of her rural Brooklyn, Iowa hometown.
Rivera provided key details about his encounter with Tibbetts, Rahn said, adding that a neighbor’s security camera footage was crucial in the case.
"Through that we were able to identify a vehicle that we believed belonged to Mr. Rivera," Rahn said. "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."
Rivera faces first-degree murder charges in her death.
Tibbetts vanished on July 18. The 20-year-old University of Iowa student was watching her boyfriend Dalton Jack’s dog that day, and she was last seen jogging through the rural town of Brooklyn, Iowa.
Her disappearance inspired a major volunteer search, with the FBI joining in. Eventually, authorities called off an official effort, but her father, Rob Tibbetts, who flew to Iowa from California to look for his little girl, continued to search. But after handing out missing person flyers, t-shirts, and buttons with family and friends and volunteers, he eventually went back to California.
Authorities said Tuesday that they received some 4,000 tips about the student’s disappearance. An official website to aid in the search, findingmollie.iowa.gov, was set up during the search, as were Facebook profile pages. The website asked those with potential information to focus on five areas of interest around Brooklyn.
[Photo: Iowa Department of Public Safety, Facebook]
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