2:03 PM PDT, August 30, 2021
Cristhian Bahena Rivera, 27, was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, which in the state of Iowa is the mandatory sentence for first-degree murder, as they do not have the death penalty, the Associated Press reported. He was found guilty of killing the co-ed in May 2021.
The former farmhand, who testified that he came to America illegally from Mexico as a teenager, has been jailed since his arrest in August 2018, the AP reported.
Tibbetts, 20, was found stabbed to death in July 2018. Her body was found in a cornfield in Poweshiek County after Bahena Rivera took investigators to it. She had gone for a jog and never returned home.
Bahena Rivera told investigators that he approached Tibbetts because he found her attractive but fought with her after he said she threatened to call police, the AP reported. He claimed he then blacked out and came to as he was driving with her body in his trunk. Forensic experts found smears of blood with Tibbetts’ DNA in Bahena Rivera’s trunk, officials said.
His defense team said that the confession was coerced and during his May 2021 testimony, he said that two masked gunmen loaded Tibbetts’ body into his trunk and ordered him at knifepoint to drive out of town.
However, Judge Joel Yates rejected the idea.
“Mr. Bahena Rivera, you and you alone forever changed the lives of those who loved Mollie Tibbetts,” the judge said before the sentencing Monday afternoon.
The judge previously denied Bahena Rivera’s motion for a new trial, saying the new information was unreliable and he saw no reason to overturn the jury’s verdict after the news that emerged from his May testimony.
The defense plans to appeal, according to the AP.