What we know about the undocumented immigrant charged with killing Mollie Tibbetts

Iowa authorities have charged Cristhian Bahena Rivera, 24, with murder in the presumed death of Mollie Tibbetts, a 20-year-old college student who has been missing for more than five weeks.

Cristhian Rivera, 24, has been charged with first-degree murder in the disappearance of Mollie Tibbetts, according to arrest documents from the Poweshiek County Sheriff’s Office.

Here is what we know about Rivera so far.

Suspect is an undocumented immigrant

Rivera has been in the area for four to seven years, said Rick Rahn, special agent in charge at the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation. US Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Rivera is from Mexico.

Suspect led authorities to the body

Rivera led authorities to the young woman’s body, which was found in a cornfield with leaves placed on top, Rahn said. The area in Poweshiek County has a lot of fields, woods and ditches, Rahn said, which presented challenges for authorities searching for the missing student. “We have certainly had extensive searches throughout the county, we just didn’t have success locating her,” Rahn said.

More than 200 interviews have been conducted in the investigation into the disappearance of a University of Iowa student, Mollie Tibbetts, according to the special agent in charge.

He allegedly chased Tibbetts

In a lengthy interview with police, Rivera said he saw Tibbetts jogging on July 18 and followed her, Rahn said.

Rivera said he approached and ran alongside or behind her. He said that Tibbetts grabbed her phone and told him to leave her alone, or she would call the police. Rivera said he chased down Tibbetts after she took off running, Rahn said.

Rivera told authorities he blacked out at some point and he came to near an intersection where they believe he placed the body, officials said.

Politicians weigh in on suspect’s immigration status

At a rally in Charleston, West Virginia, President Donald Trump referred to Tibbetts, and blamed her death on illegal immigration.

“You heard about today with the illegal alien coming in very sadly from Mexico,” he said. “And you saw what happened to that incredible beautiful young woman.”

“Should have never happened. Illegally in our country,” Trump said. “We’ve had a huge impact but the laws are so bad, the immigration laws are such a a disgrace. We’re getting it changed but we have to get more Republicans.”

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said residents “are heartbroken, and we are angry.”

“We are angry that a broken immigration system allowed a predator like this to live in our community, and we will do all we can bring justice to Mollie’s killer,” Reynolds said in statement.

Vice President Mike Pence said he was “heartbroken” by the news.

“We commend the swift action by local, state, & federal investigators working in Iowa in apprehending an illegal immigrant, who’s now charged with first-degree murder. Now, justice will be served. We will never forget Mollie Tibbetts,” Pence said.

Iowa senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst said in a joint statement. “Too many Iowans have been lost at the hands of criminals who broke our immigration laws. We cannot allow these tragedies to continue.”

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