POWESHIEK COUNTY, Iowa — The man found guilty of the murder of Mollie Tibbetts will be sentenced this week, however, attorneys say two new witnesses have come forward that cast doubt on his conviction. A new trial is now being sought.
Cristhian Bahena Rivera was convicted of first-degree murder earlier this year nearly three years after the University of Iowa student went missing. The mandatory sentence for first-degree murder in Iowa is life in prison without parole.
Last week, Rivera’s defense team filed a motion asking for a new trial and an arrest of judgement, saying they have discovered new evidence. The defense filed for a DOC inmate to be transported to the sentencing hearing, which the judge has approved.
The Des Moines Registrar says a person incarcerated at an Iowa correctional facility approached a prison chaplain after seeing coverage of the Bahena Rivera trial.
Bahena Rivera on the last day of testimony, testified that two masked men abducted him and forced him to assist with the kidnapping and killing of Tibbetts. Prosecutors dismissed that information, but a new witness told prison staff that Bahena Rivera’s account was likely true.
After hearing Bahena River’s testimony, an inmate at an Iowa prison told staff that he heard another inmate claim that he killed the Iowa student.
The inmate who allegedly confessed, is referred to as Inmate 2. Inmate 2 said he and another person were staying at a “trap house” owned by a 50-year-old man who was involved in sex trafficking.
The inmate said Inmate 2 told him he saw Tibbets bound and gagged and admitted to being one of two people who fatally stabbed her. He said the plan was to dump her body near a Hispanic male to make it look like he had done the crime.
The second new witness, also claims that Inmate 2 was involved in Tibbetts’ murder. The second witness said he was in a car with Inmate 2 who put a gun to his head and said, “that Mexican shouldn’t be in jail for killing Mollie Tibbetts because I raped her and killed her.”
Rivera’s sentencing hearing is set for Thursday in Poweshiek County.