The Murder of Mollie Tibbetts: Trial Begins for Cristian Bahena Rivera in Iowa Jogger's Stabbing Death

Cristian Bahena Rivera was charged with first-degree murder in the 2018 stabbing death of Mollie Tibbetts, whose body was found in a cornfield in Poweshiek County. She had gone for a jog and never returned home.

Three years after she was killed while jogging in Poweshiek County, Iowa, the murder trial in the death of 20-year-old University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts is finally underway. 

After vanishing from her home while on a run in 2018, Tibbetts' body was found in a cornfield after four weeks of searching. Her death by stabbing horrified the nation. The accused killer, farmworker Cristian Bahena Rivera, is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico.

“[Bahena Rivera] admitted that he found [Tibbetts] attractive, that she was ‘hot’, in his words,” prosecutor Bart Klaver said in an opening statement to the jury.

Bahena Rivera wore headphones so he could follow the court proceedings in Spanish. 

“He admitted taking Tibbetts into the field, placing her face up and putting corn stalks on her body and then leaving,” the prosecutor continued. 

Surveillance footage believed to show Tibbetts jogging that day was played in court. Bahena Rivera’s car was allegedly seen following her.

Tibbetts' boyfriend Dalton Jack took the stand and came face-to-face with the accused killer. The defense tried to cast suspicion on Jack, who said he planned to ask Tibbetts to marry him. Jack testified that he believed Bahena River was guilty. 

When cross-examined by defense attorney Chad Frese about his temper as a teenager, Jack said he had a “short fuse” and liked to fight.

“They are trying to portray [Jack] as somebody who may be a bit of a loose canon at times, and they are trying to really cast doubt on his story,” KCCI-TV reporter Chris Gothner said. 

But Gothner says blaming the boyfriend is likely to be a failed strategy. 

“Legal experts I talked to say that the prosecution has some very strong evidence here, that it’s going to be very hard for the defense to overcome,” Gothner said.

The trial was moved to Scott County from Poweshiek County due to pre-trial publicity, including statements from former President Donald Trump, who used the case as an example of a broken immigration system, ABC News reported.

Bahena Rivera has pleaded not guilty. If convicted, he faces life in prison without the possibility of parole. 

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