May 17, 2021 - News

Trial for Mollie Tibbetts' alleged killer starts this week

A lawn sign asking people to call a phone number with information about Mollie Tibbetts.

A sign seeking information about Mollie Tibbetts on Aug. 24, 2018 in Brooklyn, Iowa. Photo: KC McGinnis/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

Jury selection starts today for the trial of Cristhian Bahena Rivera, who is accused of killing Mollie Tibbetts, a 20-year-old University of Iowa student whose disappearance drew weeks of international attention in 2018.

Why it matters: The trial will be one of the most closely watched in recent Iowa history.

  • Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, used the case during the 2018 midterm elections as a way to paint a picture of an unsafe country if undocumented immigrants enter the U.S.

Case details:

  • Bahena Rivera was charged with first-degree murder after he led officials to Tibbetts' body on Aug. 20, 2018.
  • He told detectives he saw her running and chased after her, but became angry when she threatened to call the police. From there, he said he "blocked his memory," but later found her body in his trunk, and hid it in a cornfield.
  • His defense attorneys have argued that most of the evidence against Bahena Rivera should be suppressed because officials failed to properly give him his Miranda Rights prior to an 11-hour interrogation, according to the Register.

Timeline: Jury selection is taking place today and Tuesday at the Davenport convention center. Opening remarks could start Wednesday, the Register reports.

What to watch for: Details have been scarce regarding the motivation behind the murder and the weapon used to kill Tibbetts.

How to watch: Court TV and Law and Crime Network will broadcast the trial. Local outlets are likely to follow suit.

Worthy of your time: Read this 2019 Washington Post story of how Tibbetts' mom, Laura Calderwood, chose to care for the 17-year-old son of Mexican immigrants after her daughter's death.


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