Much remains publicly unknown in the case of missing Iowa college student Mollie Tibbetts, who vanished more than two weeks ago — and while authorities have stayed mum about several key questions in the investigation, they are not slowing down.
That was the message at a news conference held Friday morning by local, state and federal officials, who were joined by Tibbetts’ family.
The 20-year-old — a rising sophomore at the University of Iowa, where she is studying psychology — was reported missing on July 19 by her relatives.
Authorities said Friday that Tibbetts was last seen alive about 7:30 p.m. on July 18 on her regular run around Brooklyn in eastern Iowa, where she lived. She was wearing dark-colored running shorts, a pink athletic top and running shoes.
She had been dog-sitting at her boyfriend’s home.
Large-scale searches ensued, and they have continued, but Tibbetts has not been found.
Still, Poweshiek County Sheriff Tom Kriegel said Friday, “The investigation into her disappearance has not slowed down at all.”
Kevin Winker, the director of investigative operations for the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, echoed that in his comments to reporters
“We’re treating this as a missing persons investigation and we are trying to find Mollie, and that continues to be our focus,” he said, noting that the lack of answers is “frustrating for everybody.”
Referring to Tibbetts’ loved ones as well as law enforcement, Winker said, “Obviously nobody wants to find Mollie more than these folks right here.”
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He confirmed that authorities are working from a “solid timeline” in Tibbetts’ disappearance but he did not elaborate.
Beyond that, he declined to discuss most parts of the ongoing investigation such as whether or not there are suspects.
Repeatedly he said he was unable to discuss questions about whether or not physical evidence had been located, such as Tibbetts’ clothing, which exact locations had been searched and other inquiries about the investigation’s work and direction.
Winker acknowledged that while some information has been released, the lack of full clarity for the public about what is known in the case can be frustrating.
But, he said, officials believe their reticence so far “gives us the best opportunity to resolve the investigation.”
Last on Friday was Tibbetts’ father, Rob Tibbetts, who spoke earnestly of his appreciation for both law enforcement and the news media, who have put an international spotlight on his daughter.
“Just standing here looking at all of you, time is compressed, days seem like weeks, and we’ve all become a family,” he said.
“We’re really in this together,” he continued. “We’re all trying to bring Mollie back.”
A day earlier, a $172,000 reward was announced for information leading to her safe return.
“We believe Mollie is still alive and if someone abducted her, we are pleading with you to please release her,” Laura Calderwood, her mom, said then. “It is our greatest hope that if someone has her, they will just release her.”
Tibbetts is described as 5-foot-3-inches tall, weighing about 120 lbs., with long brown hair and brown eyes. Anyone with information about her is urged to contact authorities at 800-452-1111 or 515-223-1400 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.