DAVENPORT, Iowa — EDITOR'S NOTE: Some of the images and video depicted in testimony may be graphic in nature.
Closing arguments were given Thursday in the murder trial of Cristhian Bahena Rivera, the man accused of killing Mollie Tibbetts.
Jurors began deliberations at 1:30 p.m. but were dismissed for the evening at 4:30 p.m. They will resume deliberations at 8:30 a.m. Friday.
"Mollie's body laid in that field and you know who knew about that. One man. One man knew and he is here and his name is Cristhian Bahena Rivera," prosecutor Scott Brown said in his closing argument.
"The evidence we do have about Cristhian Bahena Rivera is that he is not an angry man, that he is not violent," defense attorney Chad Frese responded during his closing. "That he is hard working and that he came to this country for a reason."
The defendant took the stand Wednesday, saying two armed men came into his trailer and forced him to drive into the town of Brooklyn and follow Tibbetts.
His testimony indicated the men instructed to stop a couple of times; the first time one of the men got out and came back about 10 minutes later. They continued driving toward town before Bahena Rivera was directed to stop a second time.
This time, both men got out and he said he heard them put something in the trunk. They asked him to turn around and drive toward a gravel road.
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Bahena Rivera said eventually they arrived in front of a white house. The men got out and told him not to say anything, threatening the safety of his ex-girlfriend and daughter.
When the men were gone, he said he got out and looked in the trunk of his car, and found Mollie Tibbetts' body there. Not seeing any signs of life, the defendant said he picked her up, put her in the cornfield, and covered her with corn.
Upon cross-examination, Bahena Rivera said he did remember the interview with Pamela Romero, and did lead law enforcement to Mollie's body.
Prosecutor Scott Brown asked Bahena Rivera to confirm the facts that he was driving the car seen on surveillance footage, whether he was in the area where Mollie was running and if it's correct he had never mentioned the two men to Romero. He said "yes" to all of the questions.
Bahena Rivera said he did not know where the two men went once they left. Nor have the men contacted him since.
The defendant also confirmed to Brown that he was the only one who could have taken investigators to the body of Mollie Tibbetts.
Bahena Rivera is charged with Murder in the First Degree, and faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.
Daily trial recaps
- DAY 6: Cristhian Bahena Rivera testifies in his own defense in death of Mollie Tibbetts; defense rests
- DAY 5: Cristhian Bahena Rivera's former girlfriend testifies; defense calls back Mollie Tibbetts' boyfriend
- DAY 4: State rests its case after fourth day of testimony in Cristhian Bahena Rivera murder trial
- DAY 3: DNA analyst, former police officer testify
- DAY 2: Former police officer testifies Cristhian Bahena Rivera led law enforcement to Mollie Tibbetts' body
- DAY 1: Dalton Jack, Mollie Tibbetts' boyfriend, on Cristhian Bahena Rivera: 'I wholeheartedly believe he's guilty'
Stream the trial on YouTube
Thursday, May 27
The jury has been sent home for the day.
They have been asked to return Friday at 8:30 a.m. to continue deliberations.
Jury deliberations have begun.
Brown finishes his rebuttal. Three jurors selected as alternates will be allowed to leave the courthouse, but must not discuss the case in the event they are called back to serve.
Twelve remaining jurors dismissed, and will begin deliberations after lunch.
Brown musing on the Bahena Rivera story: These phantom men stab her and put her in the trunk. Why not kill him? They leave the only eyewitness with the vehicle and a cell phone. That makes no sense at all. Why even involve him?
Brown: "There was another motive here. A sexual one ... The defendant says he left her clothes on. That's clearly not true."
Scott Brown giving rebuttal. "CBR was not targeted. He targeted himself."
Scott Brown is back up for a rebuttal. In reference to Dalton Jack, says defense "ran him into the ground."
"He wasn't so worn down that he couldn't lead them to Mollie Tibbetts' body," Brown says of the police interview.
Frese on Bahena Rivera: "He's not a monster."
Defense finishes closing argument.
Frese: "Why on earth would you not take Dalton Jack's DNA? ...They did nothing to get DNA to exclude people. DNA doesn't need to point the finger at anyone, but it can exclude people."
DNA in trunk included Mollie but others in "mixture".
Frese says there's no recording of Bahena Rivera in the car showing the location of the body.
"They don't record him going to the edge of the corn and pointing out the body? Why not? Because they had nothing for four weeks, and they cut corners and rushed to judgment."
Frese says the state should have put up Dalton Jack's phone records to show unbiased proof he was in Dubuque. "They could have, and they chose not to."
Describes use of Romero for the interview a "colossal blunder".
Frese: "This case had the unlimited resources of the federal government. FBI, DCI. They've interviewed people over and over and over again. And they send in Pamela Romero. A cop with two years experience."
Frese: "You can't think he did this. You must know. That's the difference."
Frese says there's too much missing. No murder weapon, no crime scene, no eyewitness. No motive.
"This man right here, 5'7" 125-pound illegal immigrant gets angry and resorts to killing her? Stabbing her maybe 12 times?"
Pounds his hand into fist 12 times.
Frese says investigators ignored gun safe inside house Mollie stayed in with boyfriend. There were many guns, including loaded pistol and folding knives.
"Bet they would have found one with a camo handle."
Bahena Rivera testified mystery men had gun and camo knife.
Frese talks about the month that Mollie was missing, as law enforcement looks for her.
"They had nothing. Imagine the pressure to close this case."
"It is not your job to right a wrong," Frese says. Asking jury to leave emotion out it. Leave it to case analysis.
Frese starts by thanking jury for their time and commenting on innocent victim Mollie Tibbetts.
"She was just about to spread her wings and fly," he says. "We sympathize with her family. This young lady was on her way to being someone special."
Court is back in session, with Chad Frese giving the defense's closing argument. Says Mollie Tibbetts was "truly an innocent victim."
Brown finishes the prosecution's closing argument. Court will be in a 10-minute recess.
Brown: "Who had a motive? If not the defendant, who? He tells us his motive - anger. One of the oldest motives in the history of human behavior."
Mollie's body is left 500 feet into the corn.
Brown: "She is unfindable, except by the defendant."
Brown: (Speaking on Bahena Rivera's new masked men story): "What's the problem with it? It doesn't make sense. It doesn't fit."
Brown showing the video again of runner presumed to be Mollie at 7:45 p.m. 30 seconds later, the car is driving near the running route, all taken from same home security cameras.
"Who killed Mollie Tibbetts?" Brown asks.
Goes back to his big three: car on video, confession, blood in trunk.
Closing arguments. Prosecution is up first. Poweshiek Co. Attorney Bart Klaver gave the opening. Assistant AG Scott Brown giving the closing.
Court is back in session. Judge Joel Yates is going to give the jury their instructions.
The instructions are meant to help jury determine what is and isn't allowed to be used in their deliberations, the definitions of certain legal terms and to reiterate their job is not to weigh potential punishments.
Court is taking a 15-minute break. Once the jury returns, Judge Joel Yates will read them their instructions, attorneys will give closing arguments and then jury deliberations will begin.
Wilson says Dalton spent the evening of the 18th with the crew - grilling, drinking beers and playing bags. The next day they worked until about 2 p.m.. Dalton seemed sad that day, expressed worry about not being able to contact Mollie.
Wilson confirms Dalton was working in Dubuque on a bridge job on the day Mollie disappeared. He logs his crew's hours. Dalton worked until 7 p.m. that night.
Court is back in session. State calls Nick Wilson, who was a coworker of Mollie TIbbetts' boyfriend, Dalton Jack, at Jasper Construction.
He is considered a rebuttal witness.