USA Today reports that the suspect in the murder of Mollie Tibbetts has pleaded not guilty. Cristhian Bahena Rivera, 24, was arrested in Montezuma, Iowa and charged with first-degree murder. Rivera speaks Spanish and said very little in court on Wednesday when he entered his not guilty plea in court. Tibbetts was a University of Iowa student.
Rivera has waived his right to a speedy trial and proceedings are slated for April 16, 2019.
The suspect was arrested five weeks after Tibbetts, 20, of Brooklyn, disappeared. Rivera led authorities to her body in a cornfield. He now faces a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole.
Rivera told police he followed Tibbetts when she was jogging at night before parking his car and running beside her. Tibbetts threatened to phone police and Rivera panicked. He claims not to remember anything after that until he was at an intersection. Tibbetts died from multiple “sharp force injuries.”
Defense attorneys may have the option to pursue a defense of diminished responsibility since Rivera claims to have no memory of the actual attack. Rivera would have to admit to the murder but could deny intent to kill due to his mental state.
Rivera is an illegal Mexican immigrant, and worked at Yarrabee Farms for four years by using an out-of-state identification and Social Security number. The employer and Rivera are not facing federal immigration charges at this time.
*Photo credit The Register, Des Moines, Iowa