A young illegal alien farmworker accused of killing Iowa college student Mollie Tibbetts as she was jogging testified in court Wednesday he was ordered to follow her as she ran by two men armed with knives.
Cristhian Bahena Rivera, who is standing trial in Scott County for the July 2018 stabbing death of Tibbetts and faces a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole, told the court that two armed, masked men held him at knifepoint as they loaded her body in the trunk of his car, the Daily Mail reported.
Through a translator, Rivera, 26, told jurors he wasn’t responsible for killing the 20-year-old University of Iowa student, adding that the two men who confronted him did the killing and left the body in his possession. He went on to say that he did not report the incident to police and instead went on to dump her body in a nearby cornfield over fears that they would find out he was in the United States illegally and deport him.
He told the court that on July 18, 2018, he got out of his shower to find two masked men standing in his living room wearing dark sweaters. One man was larger and was armed with a gun while the smaller man wielded a knife.
Rivera testified that the men told him, “I shouldn’t do anything stupid and everything was going to be okay.” He added that neither man threatened him directly but told him to get in his car drive straight to Brooklyn, Iowa, where they encountered a jogger who he knows now was Tibbetts.
He claimed that the two men crouched down as low as possible in the vehicle and then told him to drive past Tibbetts, seen jogging in surveillance video, at least three or four times. The final time they approached Tibbetts, Rivera testified, she was running back into town.
Then, Rivera said the man armed with the knife who was next to him in the passenger seat instructed him to stop before he got out of the car and began walking towards town. He went on to say the larger man with the gun waited with him in the car for roughly 10 minutes. At one point, Rivera said he heard the larger man whisper, perhaps to himself, “Come on, Jack,” which was likely a reference to Dalton Jack, who was Tibbetts’ boyfriend at the time.
During Jack’s testimony last week, he was shown phone records indicating that he had dialed his girlfriend only once shortly after she vanished. He was also confronted with Snapchat messages regarding an affair with another woman as well as questions concerning his short temper.
But police say they had cleared Jack in the murder after it was established that he was working out of town when it occurred.
Rivera went on to say that the smaller man eventually got back in his car and told him to continue driving before ordering him to stop and to give him his car keys before they exited the vehicle. As he sat in the driver’s seat, Rivera said he heard and felt the two men putting something in his trunk.
He said the two men got back in the car and instructed him to drive down a gravel road for several minutes until they got to a white house near a cornfield. He also testified that the two men told him they were aware he had a child with an ex-girlfriend and that if he told anyone about what had happened, they would return and “take care of them.”
After that, he said the men took his cellphone and keys, which then led him to check out what they put in his trunk. Rivera said he saw Tibbetts’ body inside along with his keys and cellphone.
Rivera said he pondered what to do for a few minutes before deciding to take her body, which was still clothed except for one shoe, into the nearby cornfield where he covered it up “because I didn’t want her to be exposed to the sun.”
He said he then used his phone to get home and did not call the police “because I was scared.”
Last week, jurors were shown pictures of Tibbetts’ partially naked, decomposing body. They were also told she was stabbed between seven and 10 times in the chest, ribs, neck and skull.
When police first questioned Rivera, he told them he “blacked out” but eventually confessed to the crime, saying she became angry, fought with him, and threatened to call police after he approached her.
Investigators also found DNA evidence — bloodstains — in the back of his Chevy Malibu, and discovered surveillance video of his car in Tibbetts’ vicinity as she jogged.
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