New details about Mollie Tibbetts' death and the man suspected of killing her

The accused appeared in court on Wednesday afternoon.
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Mollie tibbetts rivera

The day after Mollie Tibbetts' body was found in rural Iowa and a man was charged with her murder, more details are being revealed about her killing.

The 20-year-old University of Iowa student had been missing for more than a month after disappearing in her hometown of Brooklyn, Iowa on July 18.

It sparked a statewide search that culminated Tuesday, when he body was recovered from a field a few miles outside Brooklyn. A 24-year-old man, Cristhian Rivera, has been charged with her murder.

Here's the latest on the case as of Wednesday afternoon.

Tibbetts' death

Rivera told police that he'd initially followed Tibbetts as she was jogging in her hometown, and then started running alongside her.

He says he panicked when she threatened to call the police and then "got mad." He said what happened next he "blocked" from his memory, which he says happens when he's very upset.

It was only when footage from a security camera was obtained by investigators that the breakthrough was made, as it showed Rivera's vehicle on several occasions in the area where Tibbetts' was thought to be running.

Tibbetts' body was found in a field to the southeast of Brooklyn, near Guernsey, Iowa.

It had been covered in corn stalks. An autopsy on Wednesday is expected to confirm her cause of death.

In the criminal complaint against Rivera, he said he brought Tibbetts to the field in his trunk, and when he opened it noticed she had blood on the side of her head.

The approximate location of where Tibbetts' body was found.

The approximate location of where Tibbetts' body was found.

The suspect

Rivera, 24, made his first court appearance on Wednesday, and is being held on a $5 million bond for Tibbetts' murder.

Initial reports from authorities identified Rivera, 24, as a Mexican immigrant who is in the country illegally.

However, his attorney Allan Richards disputes this, and has criticized President Donald Trump as "sad and sorry" for seizing on his client's immigration status as a political talking point. Trump on Tuesday said that Tibbetts' death at the hands of an "illegal alien" could have been prevented with stricter immigration laws. 

Richards applied for a gag order to prevent the government from referring to Rivera as an "illegal immigrant" as a result of the president's comments, saying it could "poison" the entire possible pool of jury members.

The Des Moines Register reports Richards wrote that Rivera's immigration status had been verified as legal by his employer, Yarrabee Farms.

Yarrabee Farms is owned by Eric Lang, the brother of Craig Lang, who is running as a Republican this year for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture. 

Eric Lang's son, Dane, told the newspaper that Rivera was an employee "in good standing" and the business was "shocked" over his arrest.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Craig Lang verified that Rivera was in the country legally, saying it was confirmed by an e-Verify immigration status check.

Rivera had lived in Iowa for between 4-7 years, and a search of court records shows no previous criminal offenses.

CBS is reporting that police haven't definitely ruled out that Rivera was a stranger to Tibbetts, with a police spokesman saying he told officers he had seen her before.

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Statement from the Tibbetts family

On Wednesday morning, the Tibbetts family shared the following statement.

Our hearts are broken.

On behalf of Mollie’s entire family, we thank all of those from around the world who have sent their thoughts and prayers for our girl. We know that many of you will join us as we continue to carry Mollie in our hearts forever.

At this time, our family asks that we be allowed the time to process our devastating loss and share our grief in private.

Again, thank you for the outpouring of love and support that has been shared in Mollie’s name. We remain forever grateful.

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