Christhian Bahena Rivera has been found guilty of first-degree murder in the 2018 death of University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts.
An Iowa jury convicted him of the charges after spending three hours deliberating on Thursday, May 27, and more time mulling over their decision on Friday, May 28. State sentencing laws mandate Bahena Rivera, 26, will spend the rest of his life in prison, without the possibility of parole. His sentencing hearing is scheduled to take place on July 15.
“We’re disappointed,” defense attorney Chad Frese said after the verdict was revealed, according to ABC News. “They certainly came to their decision. We’ll respect their decision. We’re explore our options and go from there.”
Bahena Rivera testified in his own defense during the two-week trial, claiming two armed men in masks forced him to help them kidnap Tibbetts, who was out running in Brooklyn when she disappeared on July 18, 2018. He said the men later made him dispose of the evidence.
The 26-year-old previously led police to Tibbetts’ body in a cornfield in August 2018. He later pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.
Tibbetts had been missing for nearly five weeks when her father finally confirmed that her body was found. The rural area in which it was located is a 15-minute drive from Brooklyn, where the young woman lived with her boyfriend and his brother. She had been staying in the house alone at the time, as both men were off on construction jobs, and she was last seen alive heading out for a jog.
Tibbetts was a psychology major at the University of Iowa. She was a sophomore in school and just 20 years old when her life was cut short. As soon as she went missing, a massive hunt ensued to find her. At first, her father and family remained hopeful that she would be returned safely, but as the weeks passed, they feared the worst.
Previously, Radar reported that Bahena Rivera begged taxpayers for money to get him off the hook. He allegedly asked for $5,000, knowing the “amount is probably considerably less than what will actually be necessary to conduct all investigation in this matter.”
Friends of Tibbett have opened up about the fond memories they shared with her before her tragic death and said they will always cherish the good times they had together. “She’s everybody’s counselor,” close pal Kayleigh Holland told the Des Moines Register. “Any problem that they had, you knew Mollie would help you fix it.”
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