Investigators have ruled the death of Iowa college student Mollie Tibbetts a homicide after an autopsy reported confirmed that the 20-year-old died from “multiple sharp force injuries.” Authorities also announced that they discovered the body of Tibbetts, who had been missing for more than a month, after her alleged killer, 24-year-old Cristhian Rivera, led investigators to where it was hidden in a farm field on Tuesday. Adding further controversy to the murder, which has shaken the small town of Brooklyn, Iowa, was the fact that Rivera was apparently an undocumented immigrant — a factor that has ignited an already heated debate over immigration both in the community and nationwide.
Prior to the discovery of Tibbetts’ body, her father, Rob Tibbetts, and investigators had led a frantic search following “hundreds” of leads with the hope of finding her alive and well. Tibbetts had last been seen alive jogging alone in the early evening in the small town of 1,400 residents.
“The bottom line is somebody knows something,” said Rob Tibbetts at the time. “You can’t do anything there without someone seeing it.”
Rivera, who has yet to enter a plea, will appear on court on August 31.
Meanwhile, Tibbetts’ family, while mourning her death, is also reacting to the politicization of the circumstances surrounding her killing. President Donald Trump and other conservatives quickly held up Tibbetts’ murder as justification for harsh immigration policies the Trump administration has enacted during his presidency. But some in Tibbetts’ family are openly pushing back against her death being used for a political agenda.
Speaking to CNN, Billie Jo Calderwood, Tibbett’s aunt, said pegging a political agenda her death is wrong. “I don’t want Mollie’s memory to get lost amongst politics,” she told CNN, adding that the circumstances surrounding the tragedy are “not about race, it’s about people joining together to do good.” She also took to Facebook to elaborate on her point, according to CNN. And Tibbetts family issued a statement thank supporters for an outpouring of support, but asking “ that we be allowed the time to process our devastating loss and share our grief in private.”
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