Jurors in the trial of an illegal immigrant charged with the brutal murder of Mollie Tibbetts in 2018 found Cristhian Bahena Rivera guilty of first degree murder on Friday in a case that gained national attention due to the suspect’s immigration status .
The verdict was announced Friday afternoon after a two-week trial in Davenport, Iowa, in which Cristhian Bahena Rivera, 26, was charged with first degree murder for which he was convicted.
After the verdict, prosecutor Scott Brown said the Tibbetts family were “relieved” and satisfied with the decision.
Jurors made their decision after deliberating for just over seven hours. Excluding the alternates, the jurors ranged from 19 to 71 years old. The jury was made up of five women and seven men, three of whom were of Hispanic origin and nine were white.
Juror Robert Reed told Fox News the panel was confident in its decision, noting that the accused nature of the case did not play a role in the outcome.
“I think especially for a lot of us it was very emotional,” he said. “What we really needed to do is put all of our emotions aside. And that’s not what it was about.”
Bahena Rivera, who arrived in the United States illegally from Mexico as a teenager, will be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, which is a mandatory sentence on conviction. He will be held without bond pending a sentencing hearing on July 15.
Defense attorneys Chad and Jennifer Frese said they plan to appeal the jury’s decision on behalf of their client.
Chad Frese said he and the defense team were “disappointed” with the verdict.
“Anytime you have a client making a statement like him, and the fact that there’s DNA evidence in the trunk and he led it to the body, that makes it extremely difficult,” he said. he told reporters after the decision. ad.
Frese said the decision to have Bahena Rivera testify “was not as difficult as many people want it to be believed.” He said the testimony his client gave during the trial “was exactly the version of events he told us dating back to August 2018”.
“He had never deviated from this version of events, neither a nor a detail,” Frese said. “We thought the jury needed to hear directly from him.”
During closing arguments, prosecutors urged the jury to sentence Bahena Rivera, 26, of the death of the University of Iowa student, citing “overwhelming evidence” that linked her to the murder.
The defense closed its case on Wednesday after Bahena Rivera said two men killed Tibbetts and forced him to carry his body in his car and threatened to injure his family.
Brown called Bahena Rivera’s testimony “a figment of her imagination.” He argued that Bahena Rivera passed 20-year-old Tibbetts as she was running on July 18, 2018 in Brooklyn, Iowa, and made advances to her.
MOLLIE TIBBETS MURDER: KEY HOME SURVEILLANCE VIDEO OF JOGGER, VEHICLE SHOW AT TRIAL FOR NATIONAL MEXICAN
When she pushed him away, he got angry, Brown said. He then killed her and hid her body in a cornfield, he said.
“He’s coming up with something totally new,” Brown said of Bahena Rivera’s testimony after the verdict.
Defense lawyer Chad Frese said his client gave authorities a false confession that was coerced. He noted that investigators never found a murder weapon or produced any witnesses showing where Tibbetts was killed.
DEFENSE IN MOLLIE TIBBETTS RESTS OF BUSINESS, SUSPECT OF MURDER TESTIFIED ARMED AND MASKED MEN FORCED TO APPROACH HIM
The defense portrayed Bahena Rivera as a hardworking immigrant from Mexico who crossed the border illegally as a teenager in search of a better life and was forced to confess to the murder.
Frese said Bahena Rivera had no history of violence and worked to avoid the police, given that he was living illegally in the country. He said it made no sense that his client was “brazen enough to take a woman, kidnap her and maybe kill her in 10 to 20 minutes.”
“My friends, this was planned, not by him but by someone else,” Frese said.
Prosecutors on Thursday called a rebuttal witness to establish an alibi for Tibbetts boyfriend Dalton Jack, who the defense said was involved in the murder.
Frese, the defense attorney, said investigators had not given Jack a thorough examination. He noted that Jack sent Tibbetts a text message within minutes of his disappearance, saying his “cellular data would not work.”
“It’s suspicious text if I’ve seen one before, my friends,” he said. “Looks like someone is trying to cover their tracks.”
CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP
Jack’s former supervisor, Nick Wilson, said Jack was working on a bridge in Dubuque about an hour before the murder. After work, Jack then roasted and drank beer with other colleagues at a hotel that evening. Dubuque is over two hours drive from Brooklyn.
Melissa Chrise of Fox News contributed to this report, as well as to The Associated Press.