• 'She's a fighter': Community continues its search for missing University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts

    By: USA Today

    Updated:

    BROOKLYN, Ia. — The same poster fills nearly every downtown storefront on Jackstreet Street.

    It’s hanging in the deli, a crafts store and the local print shop. One word, typed across the center of the flyer, shouting at each passerby in a blazing red font:

    “Missing.”

    Community members in Brooklyn, Iowa, an eastern Iowa town of roughly 1,500, continue to search for Mollie Tibbetts, a 20-year-old University of Iowa student who went missing last week.

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    “It’s frustrating; it’s powerless,” said Mollie Tibbetts' aunt, Kim Calderwood, of Brooklyn. “We’re racking our brains, thinking what can we think of to tell the investigators. It’s the worst thing … to want to fix something you can't fix.”

    Family members reported Tibbetts missing Thursday, Calderwood said. She’s a 5-foot-3 white woman with brown hair and eyes, weighing 120 pounds. A neighbor last saw her going for a jog on Wednesday evening, wearing gym shorts, a black sports bra and running shoes.

    The Poweshiek County Sheriff's Department and the state department of criminal investigation provided no new information Sunday beyond “the search is still ongoing.” A Facebook post published by Tibbetts' cousin Emily Heaston on Saturday said investigators were working to trace her digital footprint.

    Still, the small town continues to rally. Calderwood said hundreds turned out Friday to comb through the rural roads of Poweshiek County.

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    And thousands on social media have shared photos of Tibbetts — of her posing in her senior portraits, and of her smiling wide at a Hawkeyes football game — pleading with friends and family to stay vigilant.

    The outpouring of support can be overwhelming, Calderwood said, “in the best way, honestly — to know that you’re cared about that way and she’s cared about that way.”

    Described by her aunt as a “beautiful, positive girl,” Tibbetts graduated from the local high school in 2017, where she ran track and competed on the local debate team. She babysat for a number of Brooklyn families in high school and involved herself with the local Catholic church, Calderwood said.

    Calderwood stays hopeful “because I know Mollie.”

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    “She’s strong and sassy and a fighter and stubborn and she is not a quitter.”

    Brooklyn residents, like Joy Manatt Vanlandschoot, have taken to raising awareness despite not knowing Tibbetts personally. Vanlandschoot, who runs a local screen printing company, has printed buttons and magnets to stick on the side of cars.

    T-shirts will arrive in the coming days, she said.

    “A daughter to anybody in this community is a daughter to everybody,” said Joy Manatt Vanlandschoot. “We all hope the same effort would be made toward our own children.

    Cooking a hot meal, hanging a flyer … lending help when your neighbor needs it is just what small towns do, Calderwood said.

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    “I think everyone is doing what they need to do," Calderwood said.

    Officials continue to search for Tibbetts. Anyone with information is asked to call the Poweshiek County Sheriff's Office, at 641-623-5679.

    Follow Matthew Leimkuehler on Twitter: @mattleimkuehler

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