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Mollie Tibbetts' Alleged Killer Reverses Confession

Wednesday's testimony came as surprise to prosecutors
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 27, 2021 12:12 PM CDT

(Newser) – The man on trial for the 2018 stabbing death of University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts took the stand Wednesday to claim her killers were walking free. Testifying through an interpreter, Mexican national Cristhian Bahena Rivera said two masked men, one carrying a gun and another a knife, showed up at his trailer on the rural farm property where he worked on July 18, 2018, and forced him to drive them around until they spotted Tibbetts jogging near her hometown of Brooklyn, reports the Des Moines Register. The accused killer said he parked his car out of view before the man with the knife got out, returning 10 minutes later with a heavy load he put in the trunk. Bahena Rivera said the men ran off after threatening to hurt his girlfriend and young daughter if he spoke about what happened. The 26-year-old said he then opened the trunk, finding 20-year-old Tibbetts nearly dead.

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Bahena Rivera admitted to putting her body in a cornfield, to which he led police on Aug. 21, 2018. But the rest of his story "seemed to come out of nowhere" and surprised prosecutors, per the Register. Officers said Bahena Rivera had previously admitted to following and then attacking Tibbetts, who threatened to call police on him. But Bahena Rivera testified that he'd visited Brooklyn on the day of the murder to pick up an item from his uncle, then returned to his trailer. He said it was while exiting the shower around 6pm that he encountered the strangers in his living room. He said he never saw them again after that night. His lawyers previously tried to blame other men, including Tibbetts' boyfriend, who admitted to having an affair. The state claims he was out of town for work when Tibbetts died, per the AP. Thursday brings closing arguments in the weeklong trial. (Read more Mollie Tibbetts stories.)

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