Rob Tibbetts
Matthew Rodney White/The Register/USA TODAY Network/Sipa
August 23, 2018 03:01 PM

Days before Mollie Tibbetts‘ body was discovered in a cornfield — more than a month after she bafflingly vanished while on her regular evening jog in Brooklyn, Iowa — dad Rob Tibbetts reportedly said he was “very reluctantly” returning home to California.

He did so at the urging of law enforcement who, weeks into their investigation, had asked Mollie’s family to try and resume their daily routines.

But Rob was ready to return at a moment’s notice should there be an update in the search for his daughter.

She was out there, according to her dad, who believed she was alive.

“We’ll still find Mollie and bring her home. And I still feel that way, we all still feel that way,” Rob told Iowa TV station KCRG on Saturday. “That’s why it’s difficult for me to leave knowing that there’s a good chance that we’re going to bring her home. And I want to be there when she arrives.”

On Tuesday, the Tibbetts family learned the truth: Mollie, a 20-year-old psychology student at the University of Iowa, had been killed — her body hidden in a cornfield some 11 miles southeast of Brooklyn, where she was last seen the night of July 18 on her run.

Mollie Tibbetts

The same day Mollie’s remains were discovered, 24-year-old Cristhian Rivera was charged with her first-degree murder. Police documents obtained by PEOPLE allege that Rivera abducted and killed Mollie after crossing paths with her while she was running.

Rivera appeared in court for the first time on Wednesday. While he has not entered a plea, his attorney reiterated that he is presumed innocent and that no evidence had yet been presented in court.

It remains unclear when, exactly, Tibbetts was killed and how well she may have known her suspected murderer, if at all.

An autopsy was completed Wednesday but a cause of death has not been released. Motive has also not been confirmed.

RELATED VIDEO: Man Is Charged in Connection with Mollie Tibbetts’ Murder

In the four-plus weeks between Mollie going missing and the discovery that she was dead, her family gave numerous interviews — urging the public to stay vigilant and to send in tips, to not forget about their daughter.

They were also active participants in searches and on-the-ground efforts. Rob himself handed out missing-persons flyers.

Speaking with PEOPLE in early August, he said the busyness kept his mind from darker thoughts.

“It’s at 10 p.m., when you’re driving home in your car, or when you wake up at 1 a.m. and can’t get back to sleep … that’s when you think about the worst-case scenarios,” he said. “We all have our moments. We all break down privately and together. But our feelings are immaterial right now. Breaking down is not going to help bring Mollie back.”

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