Farm worker convicted in murder of University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts

DAVENPORT, Iowa — An Iowa jury convicted a 26-year-old farmworker of first-degree murder Friday in the abduction and fatal stabbing of a University of Iowa student nearly three years ago.

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Cristhian Bahena Rivera was convicted by a Scott County jury in connection with the death of Mollie Tibbetts, who disappeared while jogging near her home in Brooklyn, Iowa, the Des Moines Register reported.

The jury of five women and seven men deliberated about three hours on Thursday and four more hours on Friday, CNN reported. Rivera wore headphones as interpreters translated the decision in Spanish, the news network reported.

The mandatory sentence in Iowa for first-degree murder is life in prison without the possibility of parole, the Register reported. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for July 15 at the Poweshiek County Courthouse in Montezuma, Iowa, according to the newspaper.

Tibbetts was jogging on July 18, 2018, and never returned, according to the Register. Her disappearance sparked a monthlong search that ended when Rivera, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, led investigators to a rural cornfield where they found Tibbetts’ body with fatal stab wounds.

“(Tibbetts’ family) are relieved. They’re pleased with the verdict,” prosecutor Scott Brown told KCCI. “The family of Mollie Tibbetts is a great bunch. They’ve been awesome to work with and the circumstance of course is always very tragic... They’ve been very supportive of everything we’ve done. We just wish them the best moving forward.”

The seven-day trial contained testimony from law enforcement officials, people who knew Rivera, and Tibbetts’ boyfriend, Dalton Jack, WQAD reported.

The trial contained seven days of testimony from law enforcement, those who know the defendant and Tibbetts’ boyfriend, Dalton Jack.

Rivera’s attorneys said an appeal would be filed.

“There’s a lot of people in this case whose stories didn’t check out well enough for us and that was a problem for us,” attorney Chad Frese told KCCI. “Can we tell you who did this? No. We can tell you that getting to know Cristhian Bahena we are very surprised that he would be the kind of person to commit a crime like this. He is nothing but a soft-spoken, respectful, kind person. Every person we have talked to in the last two-and-a-half years who have any interaction with this man echoes that. He’s been a delight to represent from a legal standpoint, from a lawyer’s standpoint.”

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