Mollie Tibbetts' Killer Loses His Bid for New Trial

Cristhian Bahena Rivera says two masked men killed Iowa college student
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 2, 2021 6:10 PM CDT
Mollie Tibbetts' Killer Loses His Bid for New Trial
Cristhian Bahena Rivera appears during a hearing last month at the Poweshiek County Courthouse in Montezuma, Iowa. He's scheduled to be sentenced this month.   (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette, Pool, File)

A judge on Monday rejected a convicted man's request for a new trial in the 2018 killing of University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts, whose body was found in a cornfield weeks after she disappeared while out for a run near her small hometown. Judge Joel Yates' ruling cleared the way for sentencing to proceed Aug. 30 in the trial of Cristhian Bahena Rivera, who was convicted in May of first-degree murder in Tibbetts' death. The former farmhand, who came to the US illegally as a teenager, faces a sentence of life in prison, the AP reports. Yates rejected efforts by Bahena Rivera's attorneys to implicate others, saying much of the evidence they presented after he was convicted was known to them before the verdict was handed down. To grant a new trial, any additional evidence would have to be new and revealed after the verdict, he wrote.

The judge said many of the new allegations conflicted with testimony and evidence from Bahena Rivera's own witnesses. "In reviewing the evidence and testimony provided at trial, the court finds the verdict was not contrary to the weight of the evidence," Yates wrote. During questioning by police, Bahena Rivera acknowledged that he encountered Tibbetts as she was running near her eastern Iowa hometown of Brooklyn, and he led investigators to the field where her body lay hidden under cornstalks. But during his trial, he claimed publicly for the first time that two masked men kidnapped him at gunpoint from his trailer, forced him to drive to where Tibbetts was running on a rural road, killed her, put her body in his trunk, and made him dispose of it. He said he didn't tell investigators about the two men earlier because they had threatened to kill his ex-girlfriend and young daughter. Prosecutors praised the decision Monday. Defense lawyers did not immediately comment.

(More Mollie Tibbetts stories.)

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