The body of Iowa college student Mollie Tibbetts was found 500
yards into a cornfield about 10 to 12 miles south from where
police think she was abducted, an investigator tells PEOPLE.
Mitch Mortvedt, assistant director of the Iowa Division of
Criminal Investigation, says the Guernsey field was not owned by
Yarbee Farms, the dairy farm that employed suspect Christhian
Rivera, 24, but that Rivera “was familiar” with the area because
he lived and worked a few miles away.
Tibbetts, a 20-year-old psychology major at the University of
Iowa, was found buried under parts of cornstalks, says Mortvedt.
Her body was 500 yards from a gravel road and not visible from
it, he says.
“Corn … in Iowa this time of year is over eight feet tall and
has that long skinny leaves as it grows and blossoms, and
[Rivera] had ripped off a bunch of those off the corn stalk and
just kind of laid them on her to try to camouflage her,” says
Although investigators had searched nearby cornfields, Mortvedt
says that particular cornfield hadn’t been searched until Rivera
allegedly led them to Tibbetts’ body Tuesday.
Authorities have not revealed when, exactly, Tibbetts was killed
and Mortvedt would not comment on whether or not Tibbetts was
held captive for a period of time. “At this point, we can’t talk
about [it],” he says.
Rivera is charged with first-degree murder in Tibbetts’ death,
which preliminary autopsy results show was caused by “multiple
sharp force injuries,” although Mortvedt says authorities are
not currently providing more specifics.
Rivera has not entered a plea to the charge, but his attorney
has said he is presumed innocent, describing his client as a
hard worker and “loving father” to his young daughter. At his
initial court hearing Wednesday, Rivera’s bond was increased
from $1 million to $5 million at the urging of prosecutors.
Tibbetts went missing on July 18 after leaving her home in
Brooklyn, Iowa, to go for a jog. Brooklyn is about 11 miles from
southeast of Guernsey.
At a press conference Tuesday announcing Rivera’s arrest, Rick
Rahn of the Iowa DCI alleged Rivera confessed to circling around
Tibbetts a few times with his car before he started running
alongside her. Rahn said that Rivera confessed that at one
point, Tibbetts told him to leave her alone, threatening to call
Subsequently, Rivera allegedly chased Tibbetts down and at some
point said he blacked out, Rahn said.
Rahn said Rivera allegedly admitted seeing Tibbetts previously,
but he did not elaborate.
Mortvedt tells PEOPLE that speculation that Rivera and Tibbetts
might have known each other prior to her killing “isn’t
something law enforcement has verified.”
Rivera had no criminal record before his arrest.
“All of a sudden he just does it,” Mortvedt says. “Who escalates
to abduction, kidnapping and homicide that fast?”
“That is part of the ongoing investigation,” Mortvedt says. “We
want to dig into his background — and not just the last four
weeks. Who is this guy? Where has he been? What has he done? How
can we verify that?”