An undocumented immigrant told police that he killed University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts in a moment of panic after she attempted to call for help on her cell phone, court papers show.
Cristhian Bahena Rivera, 24, a Mexican national who has lived in Iowa for at least four years, is being held on a first-degree murder charge in the brazen attack, officials said Tuesday. Tibbetts vanished July 18 while out for an evening jog.
The federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency released a statement saying that it had “lodged a detainer” with the Poweshiek County sheriff’s office to hold Rivera.
Court papers say that Rivera led investigators early Tuesday to the body of Tibbetts, 20, who disappeared while running in her hometown of 1,400 about 70 miles east of Des Moines. The ensuing month-long search for her was widely followed in national news reports.
Rick Rahn, special agent in charge at the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, said Rivera’s motive for the alleged attack remains unclear.
“He seemed to be drawn to her that particular day and for whatever reason, he chose to abduct her,” Rahn said.