Cristhian Rivera, the man accused of killing University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts, has replaced defense attorney Allan Richards, who has been representing him up until late last week, the Des Moines Register reported.
Instead, he will now be represented by lawyers Chad Frese and Jennifer Frese, two lawyers who are married to each other but work for different firms.
"The family reached out (to) us and we met with them first and then we met with Mr. Rivera on Friday evening and he decided to move forward with the change of counsel," Jennifer Frese told the Des Moines Register.
It’s not clear what prompted the change.
Richards made an appearance on Fox News’ “The Story” last Thursday, where he argued with anchor Martha MacCallum about the immigration status of Rivera, calling it "rhetoric."
Richards had argued in a court filing that Rivera was in the U.S. legally, citing his employer's initial statement that he was an employee in good standing. However, the employer, Yarrabee Farms, later admited they didn't use the E-Verify system to check his immigration status. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services told Fox News that Rivera did not make any DACA requests and no DACA grants were given to him.
Rivera is currently being held on a $5 million cash bond only for the murder of the 20-year-old psychology student, who vanished while going for an evening run in Brooklyn, Iowa on July 18.
Police say that Rivera led them to her remains last week, hidden in a cornfield.
The findings of a preliminary autopsy, released last week, revealed that she died of “homicide resulting from multiple sharp force injuries.''
Rivera told police he approached Tibbetts as she was running, and she threatened to call the cops, according to court documents obtained by Oxygen.com.
The exchange enraged Rivera, according to the documents, and he claims he blacked out before coming to at an intersection with Tibbetts' body in the trunk of his car.
Rivera said he does remember seeing Tibbetts’ headphones in his lap and he does recall removing her bloodied body from his trunk.
“The defendant further described during the interview that he dragged Tibbetts on foot from his vehicle to a secluded location in a cornfield,” the affidavit says.
[Photo: Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation]