Cristhian Bahena Rivera Sentenced to Life for the 2018 Murder of Mollie Tibbetts

Cristhian Bahena Rivera has been sentenced to life without parole for the 2018 murder of Mollie Tibbetts.

"Mr. Bahena Rivera, you and you alone forever changed the lives of those who loved Mollie Tibbetts and for that you and you alone will receive the following sentence," Poweshiek County District Court Judge Joel Yates, who had presided over the case, said on Monday afternoon.

Yates sentenced Bahena Rivera to life with no eligibility for parole and ordered him to pay $150,000 to the Tibbetts family.

"I selected this particular sentence for you after considering the nature of the offense committed by you, the harm to the victim and the victim's family, your need for rehabilitation and a necessity for protecting the community from further offenses by you and others," Yates said.

In May, Bahena Rivera, an undocumented farmworker from Mexico, was found guilty of first-degree murder after a two-week trial.

Investigators argued to the jury that Bahena Rivera, who is now 27-years-old, kidnapped and killed 20-year-old Mollie Tibbetts, before dumping her body in a cornfield outside her hometown of Brooklyn, Iowa during the summer of 2018.

Tibbetts, a University of Iowa student, was last seen jogging on July 18, 2018 and was reported missing the next day. Her body was found more than a month later on August 21, 2018.

Security footage showed that Bahena Rivera's Chevy Malibu was near the area the student had been jogging. Trial evidence also showed that Tibbett's blood was found in the truck of the vehicle.

Cristhian Bahena Rivera Mollie Tibbetts Sentencing Murder
Cristhian Bahena Rivera was sentenced to life in prison with no parole on August, 30, 2021 in an Iowa courtroom. He was convicted of first-degree murder of 20-year-old student Mollie Tibbetts earlier this year. Poweshiek County District Court

At the trial, Bahena Rivera took the stand in his own defense, alleging that he had been kidnapped by two masked men, who instructed him to drive around the area and put Tibbett's body in the trunk of his car.

He claimed that the two men were responsible for Tibbett's death, not him.

Bahena Rivera's sentencing was first scheduled for July but Yates pushed it back after his defense team tried to move for a new trial, citing new evidence that arose after his May conviction. Yates denied the motion.

In the motion for a new trial, Bahena Rivera's attorneys introduced two new witnesses, who each claimed that a man named Gavin Jones had confessed to be Tibbett's killer.

In his denial of the motion for a new trial, Yates wrote that the new evidence "greatly downplays the discrepancies between [Bahena Rivera] testimony at trial and the account that (the new witness) reports he was told by Jones."

"Had both versions of events been presented at trial, the jury would have had to make a credibility determination not between the State's witnesses and those of the defense, which is a typical scenario, but between the Defendant and his own witness," the judge added.

Bahena Rivera or his attorney have 30 days to appeal the sentence.