DAVENPORT, Iowa — EDITOR'S NOTE: Some of the images and video depicted in testimony may be graphic in nature.
Nearly three years after Mollie Tibbetts' death, the suspect in her killing stands trial in Scott County.
Wednesday, May 19 Fast Facts
- Prosecution delivers opening argument, defense opts to give its opening after the state rests.
- First witness: Blake Jack, the brother of Mollie Tibbetts’ boyfriend. He discussed when he found out Mollie was missing and how he tried to get ahold of her.
- Second witness: Dalton Jack, Mollie’s boyfriend. Testifies about dating history, relationship with Mollie, where he was when she disappeared, and states that he believes Cristhian Bahena Rivera is guilty.
- Third witness: Deputy Matt Simpson with the Poweshiek County Sheriff’s Office. Describes what he found at the home where Mollie was known to stay.
- Fourth witness: Jillena Scheck, a coworker and family friend of Mollie’s. She recalled trying to get ahold of her when she didn’t show up for work.
- Fifth witness: Christina Steward, owns a beauty salon in town. She saw Mollie running the night she disappeared and went looking for her the next day.
- Sixth witness: Arely Nunez-Lorenzana, cousin of Cristhian Bahena Rivera. Talks about an agreement to buy him a car and their family gatherings.
- Court to resume Thursday, May 20 at 8:30 a.m.
Scroll down to see a recap of real-time updates from the courtroom
26-year-old Cristhian Bahena Rivera is charged with Murder in the First Degree after Tibbetts, a 20-year-old University of Iowa student, went missing during a run in July 2018.
Her body was found a month later, with law enforcement saying Bahena Rivera led them to her body in a rural Iowa cornfield.
The trial will take place inside the Scott County Courthouse in downtown Davenport and is expected to last 10 days, according to an order from Judge Joel Yates.
Mollie's boyfriend, Dalton Jack, testified Monday that while he did have a relationship with another woman while he and Mollie were dating, they moved past it before her disappearance.
"I wholeheartedly believe he's guilty," he said of Bahena Rivera when asked why he didn't want to testify at the trial.
The jury also heard from Blake Jack, Dalton's brother, Deputy Matt Simpson with the Poweshiek County Sheriff's Office and a cousin of Bahena Rivera's who said she sold him a Black Chevy Malibu prosecutors say was caught on camera near Mollie as she was running.
If convicted, Bahena Rivera faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Para una versión en español, haga clic aquí.
Watch Day 1 of the trial on YouTube
Wednesday, May 19
Witness may step down. Court adjourns for the day. Court is to resume Thursday, May 20 at 8:30 a.m.
The defense cross examines. They ask why Lorenzana would buy him a car.
"He's my cousin and he needed a way of transportation," she replied. With prompting from the defense, she confirmed it was because he did not have papers.
State calls Arely Nunez-Lorenzana, Cristhian Bahena Rivera's cousin. She says they would mainly see each other at family gatherings.
Court is in a recess.
The defense conducts a short cross-examination, going over the map displayed in the exhibit.
After hearing of Mollie's disappearance, Steward said she recalled driving passed and seeing her running the night before, saying, "My heart sank because I knew that I passed her," said Steward.
The State shows a diagram of where Steward saw her running, recognizes the area as the "S" curve in Brooklyn, Iowa. This is "Exhibit 6".
Steward saw her running while driving past her as she was driving to her parents’ home.
State calls next witness, Kristina Steward. Steward owns a beauty salon in Brooklyn, Iowa. Mollie was a client of hers.
Scheck says she tried to get ahold of Mollie when she didn't show up for work, trying to reach her through phone calls, texts and reaching out to a family member.
Defense declines to cross-examine.
Court is back in session. State calls Jillena Scheck, a coworker and family friend of Mollie Tibbetts.
Court breaks for lunch. Trial will resume at 1:15 p.m.
Defense attorney Jennifer Frese is now cross-examining Deputy Simpson.
Deputy Simpson describes what the he found when he arrived at the house where Mollie Tibbetts had been staying.
Deputy Simpson also visited another home where Tibbetts had been known to the stay. According to Deputy Simpson, the owner noted that Tibbetts' running shoes and earbuds were missing.
Dalton Jack's testimony finishes. Defense attorney Chad Frese notes he will likely be recalled later in the trial.
Next witness for the state: Deputy Matt Simpson with the Poweshiek County Sheriff's Office.
Dalton testifies he does not know Bahena Rivera and did not have access to the Black Chevy Malibu prosecutors say was seen in the area of Mollie running.
Chad Frese, defense attorney, asks about Dalton's trial preparations again. Dalton and prosecutors reviewed two different reports.
"I wholeheartedly believe he's guilty," Dalton says after Assistant Attorney General Scott Brown asks why he doesn't want to be in the courtroom with Bahena Rivera.
Dalton testifies he and Mollie worked through Dalton's relationship with another woman. Dalton also says he maintained a good relationship with Mollie's parents afterward.
Dalton testifies he arrived on a plan yesterday (Tuesday) and did not want to testify voluntarily.
"I didn't want to be in the same room as your defendant," he tells defense attorney Chad Frese.
State back up to ask questions, Dalton says he did talk with prosecutors over the phone while serving in the military.
Frese asks Dalton about the Find My iPhone app, as well as a vehicle insurance tool in Dalton's car that would've tracked the car's movement.
Dalton testifies he wasn't on the move, and wouldn't have used the Apple Maps app for any directions the night Mollie disappeared.
"I don't know who would know better, but I barely knew Mollie's running routes," Dalton says when asked who would know Mollie's running routes best.
Dalton says Mollie when through his phone and that's when he found out about the relationship with another woman.
"The reason I use Snapchat is because it was my primary form of communication with a lot of people," Dalton says when asked why he used Snapchat to communicate with a second woman.
Dalton testifies he did have a relationship with a woman other than Mollie. He withheld that information from law enforcement because he "didn't deem it necessary," Dalton says.
Frese says Dalton told officers the fall of 2017 is when the relationship with another woman happened.
Defense attorney Chad Frese says Dalton also had a conversation with Deputy Steve Kivi with the Poweshiek County Attorney's Office. Frese references interviews where Dalton said he was in Brooklyn, not Davenport, but Dalton says he does not recall the details of those conversations, which happened in July 2018.
Chad Frese questions Dalton, saying people described him and Mollie as an ideal couple. Dalton agrees.
Dalton clarifies he was in his hotel room with his coworkers the night of Mollie's disappearance. But upon cross-examination, Dalton says he did tell police that he was in his room in Brooklyn watching movies the night she disappeared.
Cross-examination is in reference to an interview Dalton had with Deputy Matt Simpson with the Poweshiek County Sheriff's Office.
After returning from break, Dalton answers a couple final questions from the prosecution.
Defense begins cross-examination.
Dalton testifies a coworker of Mollie's called him on Thursday, July 19, 2018 that Mollie hadn't reported to work. He called Mollie multiple times but couldn't reach her.
Jury is dismissed for a 15-minute break.
Dalton says Mollie ran almost every day, up to six miles. Usually at night when it was a little cooler. Wore an armband for her phone, wireless ear buds and a FitBit.
Blake Jack finishes his testimony. Prosecution calls Dalton Jack, Tibbetts' boyfriend at the time of her disappearance.
Jennifer Frese, attorney for Cristhian Bahena Rivera, begins cross-examination of Blake Jack. This is the first we've heard from the defense.
Jack heard from his brother that he couldn't reach Mollie. Also tried to call her cell, no answer. Eventually went home to check in. No sign anything was unusual at home.
Home cameras not working because of a storm. Group of friends decides to call police.
Blake Jack discusses when he first heard Tibbetts may have been missing. Jack said he tried calling Tibbetts, checked to see if she was at his house, and checked with neighbors to see if they had seen her.
Court is back in session.
A 10-minute recess is called to address audio issues in the courtroom.
Defense opts to give its opening at the conclusion of the state's case. First prosecution witness is up. Blake Jack, the brother of Mollie's boyfriend.
Klaver concludes the state's opening arguments.
"There can be no other conclusion, than that the defendant killed Mollie Tibbetts, but I'll ask you to return a verdict," he said. "The only verdict that the evidence demands that you find the defendant guilty of murder in the first degree."
State says it will rely on three key items in its case:
- Surveillance video of a black Chevy Malibu, driven by Bahena Rivera, in the area Mollie was last seen
- Mollie’s blood in the car
- Bahena Rivera’s admissions that he found her attractive, followed her, remembering her in the trunk
FULL VIDEO: Poweshiek County Attorney Bart Klaver gives state's opening statement in trial of Cristhian Bahena Rivera
Poweshiek County Attorney Bart Klaver begins opening arguments in the case against Cristhian Bahena Rivera.
"Mollie Tibbetts. This case is her story." Klaver says. "July 18, 2018, Mollie's house-sitting for her boyfriend in Brooklyn, Iowa, taking care of the dogs. Went out for a run on one of her usual routes."
The jury has been seated, and Judge Joel Yates is giving instructions.