The Mexican immigrant accused of murdering University of Iowa
student Mollie Tibbetts used another person's name and
identification to get a job on a family farm owned by a
prominent Iowa Republican, the owners of the business said
The revelation came after murder suspect Cristhian Bahena Rivera
made his first court appearance and was ordered held on $5
million cash bond.
Molly Tibbetts murder suspect makes first court appearance
"What we learned in the last 24 hours was that our employee was
not who he said he was," Dane Lang told reporters gathered at
Yarrabee Farms in Brooklyn, Iowa.
Lang co-owns the farm with his father, Craig Lang, who is a
former GOP candidate for the state’s agriculture secretary. He
said he knows Rivera by a different name — which he declined to
"It was not Cristhian," Lang said.
Lang said that when Rivera applied for a job four years ago at
the farm, he produced an Iowa state ID and a Social Security
card that they checked out by calling the Social Security
administration — not the government-run E-Verify system as they
had said in an earlier statement.
After it was revealed that they had employed an undocumented
worker, Lang said they received more than 100 hostile messages,
including death threats and "threats to kill my dog."
Rivera, 24, did not enter a plea during his brief appearance in
the Poweshiek County courthouse one day after he was charged
with first-degree murder in connection with the death of the 20-
Wearing what appeared to be a bulletproof vest underneath his
black- and white-striped prison outfit, as well as headphones to
hear a Spanish-language interpreter, Rivera nodded his head and
answered "Si" when asked if he understood the purpose of the
The judge then denied a motion by Rivera's defense attorney,
Allan Richards, for a gag order — and to bar the media from
proceedings. In a court document, Richards said comments about
the case by President Donald Trump would "poison the entire
possible pool of jury members."
Mollie Tibbetts suspect not previously known to local police,
says Iowa special agent
"The government has weighed in at the highest levels with a
predisposition that my client is guilty," he said.
Rivera, who did not enter a plea, faces life in prison without
parole if convicted of killing Tibbetts. Her body was found
Tuesday in a field on a farm east of her Brooklyn, Iowa,
Richards told the court that Rivera was a minor when he moved to
Iowa from Mexico.
In a court filing from Richards seeking a gag order in the case,
Richards said that the government has been promoting the idea
that Rivera is in the country illegally — Trump mentioned the
case at Tuesday’s rally in West Virginia — and that "the
Government's position of promotion of this idea will prevent any
notion of Cristhian's right to a fair trial."
"Sad and Sorry Trump has weighed in on this matter in national
media which will poison the entire possible pool of jury
members," Richards wrote in the court document. The document
appears to rely on an earlier statement from Craig Lang that the
farm had verified Rivera was in the Iowa legally — but that was
made before the Wednesday afternoon news conference.
In the earlier statement, the Lang brothers had said Rivera was
an "employee in good standing."
"This individual has worked at our farms for four years, was
vetted through the government’s E-Verify system," it said. "On
Monday, the authorities visited our farm and talked to our
employees. We have cooperated fully with their investigation."
Investigators used surveillance video to track down Rivera, who
was seen following Tibbetts in his car as she jogged on a rural
"I can’t speak about the motive. I can just tell you that it
seemed that he followed her, seemed to be drawn to her on that
particular day, for whatever reason he chose to abduct her," DCI
Special Agent Rick Rahn told reporters at a news conference on
"He told us he had seen Mollie in the past and on that
particular day, July 18, 2018, he happened to see her, he was
drawn to her, and as a result, kind of followed her around a
little bit and ultimately confronted her," Rahn said. "And ended
up tackling her and ultimately abducting her."
The case has sparked renewed calls for reforming an immigration
vetting system that critics say does little to prevent
undocumented workers from illegally getting jobs in the U.S.
E-Verify is run by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration
Services, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security.
It's described on the site as a voluntary "web-based system that
allows enrolled employers to confirm the eligibility of their
employees to work in the United States" by matching information
provided by workers on the I-9 form against Social Security and
Department of Homeland Security records.
But critics like Alex Nowrasteh of the libertarian-leaning Cato
Institute dismissed the E-Verify system as a "total joke" that
enables undocumented immigrants to get jobs in the United States
— and enables employers to keep from knowingly hiring them.
E-Verify accepts Social Security cards, passports and other
documentation as proof of identity — but it relies on employers
to determine whether the documents submitted by potential
employees are legit and not borrowed or stolen, he said.
"E-Verify has been sold as this silver bullet solution to our
immigration problems, but none of its supporters have dealt with
the systematic inability to weed out illegal immigrants,"
Nowrasteh said in an interview with NBC News. "Cracking down on
illegal immigration is very expensive and can hurt the economy,
but politicians have to say they’re doing something about it. E-
Verify is a way for politicians to have their cake and eat it,
Some states like Iowa have strengthened their E-Verify
procedures by enrolling in the RIDE program, which enables an
employer to verify the identity of an applicant who presents an
Iowa driver’s license or ID card.
But Rivera had neither, said Andrea Henry, a spokeswoman for the
Iowa Department of Transportation.
Rivera's next court appearance is set for Aug. 31.