Man Convicted of Murdering Iowa College Student Mollie Tibbetts in 2018 Gets Life in Prison

In May, Cristhian Bahena Rivera, 27, was convicted of murdering 20-year-old Mollie Tibbetts

Photo: Poweshiek County Sheriff's Office

The man convicted of abducting and murdering 20-year-old University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts in 2018 has been sentenced to life in prison.

On Monday afternoon, Cristhian Bahena Rivera, 27, who was convicted in May of first-degree murder, was sentenced to life in prison without parole by Poweshiek County District Court Judge Joel Yates, according to the Associated Press.

During the hearing, Tibbetts' mother, Laura Calderwood, addressed her daughter's killer in a victim impact statement that was read out loud by a victim advocate.

"I come here to give a voice to our daughter, granddaughter, sister, girlfriend, niece, cousin and friend, Mollie Cecilia Tibbetts," Calderwood wrote, according to ABC News. "Mollie was a young woman who simply wanted to go for a quiet run on the evening of July 18 and you chose to violently and sadistically end that life."

The last time anyone saw Tibbetts alive was around 7:30 p.m. on July 18, 2018, while jogging in Brooklyn, a community of some 1,500 people in eastern Iowa, authorities said.

Tibbetts had been dog-sitting but headed out for some exercise as part of her typical routine, according to her boyfriend, Dalton Jack.

She reportedly sent her boyfriend a photo on Snapchat that he opened later that night. Then she vanished. Tibbetts was reported missing on July 19, 2018, when she failed to show up for her job at a nearby day care.

Bahena Rivera made several admissions following his arrest. After initially saying he only recognized Tibbetts' face from missing posters, he later told police he had in fact seen her jogging.

He said he considered Tibbetts attractive, and, after driving passed her, circled back to get a second look at her.

Prosecutors said Bahena Rivera told police he pulled over and jogged up to Tibbetts, trying to talk to her. She rebuffed his advances, even threatening to call the police, he told detectives.

Charlie Neibergall/AP/Shutterstock

Bahena Rivera claimed he fought with Tibbetts and blacked out, awaking to find himself driving, with the girl's earbuds in his lap. He said he recalled placing her in the trunk of his car and, later that evening, drove to a remote field where he left her body face up before covering it with corn stalks.

Prosecutors said Tibbetts was "decomposed beyond all recognition" when she was found in late August 2018.

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Bahena Rivera worked at a dairy farm less than three miles from where Tibbetts was seen running the night she vanished. A Mexican immigrant, Bahena Rivera, who was 24 at the time of the murder, had been working at the farm for four years under a fake name.

During his trial, Bahena Rivera testified in his own defense, telling jurors two armed men in masks forced him to help them kidnap Tibbetts.

According to NBC News, on Monday Judge Yates rejected his claims, telling the 27-year-old, "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."

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