“I have seen no evidence … and he is presumed innocent until we see it,” attorney Allan M. Richards tells PEOPLE, speaking about 24-year-old suspect Christhian Rivera.
Rivera is charged with first-degree murder in Tibbetts’ death, which preliminary autopsy results show was caused by “multiple sharp force injuries,” though authorities have not released further specifics. He has not entered a plea to the charge.
Tibbetts, a University of Iowa psychology major, went missing on July 18 after leaving her home in Brooklyn, Iowa, to go for a jog. At a press conference Tuesday announcing Rivera’s arrest, Rick Rahn of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation alleged Rivera confessed to circling around Tibbetts a few times with his car before he started running alongside her. Rahn said that Rivera confessed that at one point, Tibbetts told him to leave her alone, threatening to call the police.
Subsequently, Rivera allegedly chased Tibbetts down and at some point said he blacked out, Rahn said.
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Rahn said after police interviewed Rivera, the suspect led authorities to Tibbetts’s remains. Her body was found in a cornfield in Guernsey, Iowa, on Tuesday morning, some 11 miles southeast of her hometown of Brooklyn.
Rivera “seemed to be drawn to her on that particular day and chose to abduct her,” Rahn alleged Tuesday.
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Rahn said Rivera allegedly admitted seeing Tibbetts previously, but he did not elaborate. Authorities have not revealed when, exactly, Tibbetts was killed.
Speaking about Rivera’s alleged confession, Richards says, “I’m assuming they … whisked him away and hid him from the world, denied him access to counsel and access to his family. This is what they came up with — whether or not it is embellished, whether or not it is true.”
He adds, “What if it was somebody else? What if the police browbeat this guy to give him whatever confession they say, which is yet to be seen? Why not give him the presumption of innocence, at least in the first few days of the charges.”
According to Rahn, Rivera is an undocumented immigrant. But Richards disputes this, saying, “The presumption is he is legal until they establish otherwise.”
He says Rivera was “recruited from Mexico” at age 17 to work in the dairy industry and was “just a part of the community. An all-American boy working really hard.”
He also describes Rivera as “a loving father,” adding that his young child and girlfriend attended his initial court hearing Wednesday. Fox News and the Associated Press report that Rivera’s child is a daughter.
At the hearing, Rivera’s bond was increased from $1 million to $5 million, cash-only, at the urging of prosecutors.
Scott Brown, an Iowa assistant attorney general, said that Rivera is accused of “a very heinous crime and certainly the safety of the community should be foremost in the court’s mind.”
Rivera had no criminal record before his arrest.
“All of a sudden he just does it,” Mitch Mortvedt, assistant director of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, tells PEOPLE. “Who escalates to abduction, kidnapping and homicide that fast?”
“That is part of the ongoing investigation,” Mortvedt tells PEOPLE. “We want to dig into his background — and not just the last four weeks. Who is this guy? Where has he been? What has he done? How can we verify that?”