Mollie Tibbetts was 20-years-old and preparing to enter her sophomore year at the University of Iowa when tragedy struck. On the night of July 18, 2018, Tibbetts was dog sitting at her boyfriend’s brother’s house when she stopped texting him. The next morning she didn’t show up to work and worry set in. With such a bright future ahead of her, why would Tibbetts suddenly hide away in the dark? This is the story of Mollie Tibbetts; from her incredibly promising future to the tragic and devastating end of her life.
How much of the investigation do you really know?
A Typical Night In A Safe Town
The last thing anyone knows about Mollie Tibbetts before she went missing is she went for a jog. Her evening was pretty typical. She was dog sitting when she decided to get some exercise. Her boyfriend, Dalton Jack, says he got a Snapchat from her.
That’s the last piece of communication received from Tibbetts. Living in Brooklyn, Iowa is not supposed to be dangerous. Jack even told reporters, “It’s Brooklyn. You don’t lock your doors. We lock our doors now. Every night.”
Her Disappearance Was Reported On July 19, 2018
Dalton Jack suspected something was wrong when one of Mollie’s coworkers told him she didn’t show up for work. He texted her to find out what happened, but got no response. He then noticed she hadn’t opened any of his texts from the night before either.
Starting to get worried, Jack reached out to Tibbett’s friends. They all said the same thing, “‘we haven’t heard from her since yesterday.’ ” With no sign of Mollie anywhere, she was reported missing that day by her family. Mollie Tibbetts was reported missing on July 19, 2018.
As you’re about to learn, there was nothing normal about Mollie Tibbett’s disappearance.
The Search For Mollie Lasted For Weeks
On August 3, 2018, state authorities issued this statement, “We continue to look at all possibilities.” The case is believed to be the longest ever in the Brooklyn, Iowa area. Almost a month after she went missing, it was still not clear what had happened, how it happened, or why it happened.
Perhaps frustrated with the lack of movement in the case, county sheriff Thomas Kriegel told People Magazine, “everything and everybody” were suspects. In most missing persons cases, the kidnapper is someone familiar with the victim. Dalton Jack, who was the first to notice Mollie was missing, was prime suspect number one.
Mollie Wasn’t The Type To Run Away
One of the first things police were able to rule out about Tibbetts’ disappearance was that she didn’t run away. Hope Beck, her best friend, called that scenario impossible, “It’s just not likely in any type of way that she would run off. She had career plans. She had a vacation planned. It’s just not like her to not talk to her friends or family for a while.”
Beck also described Tibbetts as a role model to others, despite her relatively young age. Being able to rule out Tibbetts running away, police were left with abduction. As you probably already know, in most scenarios, if the person is not found in 48 hours, they’re probably not alive.
Investigators Cast A Wide Net Searching For Suspects
The county sheriff wasn’t lying when he said, “everything and everybody” is under review. Iowa Division of criminal Investigation spokesman Mitch Mortvedt confirmed that in case like Mollie’s, with so little information to start with, nothing can be ruled out.
Investigators had no choice but to follow a number of possible leads, including searching a pig farm a few days after Tibbett went missing. According to Mortvedt, there was no apparent struggle, which could mean Mollie was kidnapped by someone she knew, or she could have simply been overpowered.
Next, Dalton Jack is cleared of possible wrongdoing.
Police Ruled Dalton Jack Out As A Suspect First
When Mollie Tibbetts went missing, all eyes turned to her boyfriend Dalton Jack. If victims are usually taken by people they know, then he needed to be investigated thoroughly as a suspect. Less than 10 days after Tibbetts was reported missing, investigators publicly ruled out Jack as a suspect.
According to Iowa police, Jack cooperated fully with investigators. Once cleared of possible wrongdoing, Jack sent this message out to Mollie, hoping that it would find her, “I miss you and I love you.” The couple was supposed to go to his brother’s wedding together in the Dominican Republic in August.
The Search Was Conducted Over The Land, Sea, And Air
The search for Mollie Tibbetts was described as far reaching by Kevin Winker, the director of investigative operations for the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation. He said, “we have been searching ponds, fields, and even from the air, so we’ve been doing searches in many different manners.”
On July 20, a 200-person crew was split into 37 teams to search everything within a five-mile radius of where Mollie was last seen. At the same time, kayakers searched two local rivers where bodies had previously been found. Helicopters monitored the area from above, hoping to catch anything those on the ground missed.
Modern Technology Played Into The Search As Well
Dalton Jack told investigators that Mollie usually went for a run every night before the sun went down and the weather began to cool. He said she never exercised without having her phone and fitness tracker with her. She was so obsessed with tracking her fitness she never took the watch off, even using it to track her sleep.
Police used this information to aid in the search. By following Mollie’s digital footprint, including her social media activity, they hoped to narrow down the seach area, and ultimately the field of suspects, to end the investigation as quickly as possible.
Next, the FBI is called in for digital assistance when law enforcement find themselves in over their heads.
The FBI Was Called In To Help With The Digital Investigation
Investigator Rick Rahn says the Iowa police were in over their heads trying to use digital technology, so they called in the FBI. He said, “This is a new arena for us. That’s part of the reason we called the FBI in…I don’t know of another case here in Iowa where we have used specifically Fitbit info.”
Using information gathered from Tibbetts’ Fitbit, investigators were able to ping her at a hog farm 10 miles southeast of the house she was dog sitting at. Unfortunately, when police searched the area, they found nothing.
Police Kept Mostly Silent During The Investigation
During the search for Mollie Tibbetts, police gave frustratingly little information to the public. Winker said the were working from a “solid timeline,” but refused to elaborate further. He declined to answer several questions but intended to give more information later.
Winker emphasized that silence about the investigation, “gives us the best opportunity to resolve the investigation.” The silence frustrated family and friends, who just wanted reasons to believe Mollie was still alive. Any sign of evidence would have provided optimism, which was beginning to run low.
Up next, while the police stayed silent, the family chose to speak out.
Tibbett’s Family Described Her As A “Strong And Sassy” Fighter
While police chose to conduct their investigation silently, Mollie Tibbetts’ family and friends were more forthcoming with the media. Jack described his girlfriend as, “kind, sweet, caring. She’ll do anything for anybody.” Her aunt called her, “strong and sassy and a fighter and stubborn… and she is not a quitter.”
Beck Goodman became fast friends with Tibbetts as an incoming freshman at the University of Iowa. Goodman described Mollie as “very kind and very nice.” She called the disappearance, “heartbreaking for me.” Tibbett’s mother simply said the ordeal was, “excruciating.”
The Height Of The Corn Fields Complicated The Seach
County sheriff Thomas Kriegel admitted to ABC News that while most missing persons in Brooklyn are found within a day or two, the growth of the local crops had complicated things. Living in rural farm country, searching for Tibbetts was like searching for a need in a haystack.
To hear Kriegel describe it, “We’re surrounded by farm ground — corn and soy beans. Right now the corn is probably eight, nine feet tall. The only way you can search it is basically walk down every other row.” With the stocks so high, it was nearly impossible for searchers in the air to see deep into the fields, too.
There’s A Conflicting Report Of Where Mollie Was That Night
There is a conflicting report of where Mollie Tibbetts was the night of her abduction. At the end of July, Tibbetts’ aunt, Kim Calderwood, claimed to be baffled by reports she was kidnapped while jogging at night.
Calderwood said there was no way Mollie was running in the dark because she was at her aunt’s house doing homework, “I read somewhere that she was running in a cornfield. That’s obviously not true.The run happened and then she was at the house as far as we know. I don’t think she would’ve run in the dark.”
Security Camera Footage Revealed The First Big Break In The Case
After weeks of searching and coming up with nothing, the police created a website where anyone could leave tips or give any helpful information. Family and friends also posted flyers everywhere in the town offering a reward that eventually grew to $400,000.
Finally, one month into the investigation, a local neighbor handed over his home security camera footage to the cops. With the footage, investigators was handed their first big break. On the tape, Mollie was shown jogging through East Brooklyn, with a black Chevy Malibu following her.
Just ahead, police connect the car to its driver and make an arrest.
The Malibu Was Linked To Christian Rivera
With their first solid piece of evidence, the police were able to arrest Christian Rivera in the abduction of Mollie Tibbetts. After linking the car to Rivera they, “were able to track his pattern in the routes in which he took.”
When police arrested Rivera on August 20, 2018, he didn’t resist arrest. Before the video was given to the police, Rivera had not been considered a suspect. They even admitted after the arrest, “we weren’t aware of him until we were able to locate the video. So it’s not like he was on anybody’s radar throughout the investigation.”
Rivera Tells Cops A Terrifying Series Of Events
Held in police custody, Christian Rivera admitted to abducting Mollie Tibbets and recounted a terrifying tale of the events of the night. He told authorities he saw Mollie jogging and decided to “pursue her.” He then said when Mollie threatened to call the cops, he chased her down on foot before blacking out.
The next thing Rivera said he remembered was being at an intersection in Poweshiek County driving to a cornfield. He noticed headphones in his lap and remembered forcing Mollie into his car’s trunk. When he went to get her out of the trunk, he saw blood and knew things had gone too far.
Rivera Continued To Cooperate And Led Police To Mollie Tibbett’s Body
On August 21, 2018, Christian Rivera continued to cooperate with the police, and led them to the cornfield he left Mollie Tibbetts’ body in. He used his phone to show investigators the route he took, and directed them 20 yards into the cornfield where they found someone covered in leaves.
A positive identification on the body is still pending, but there is little doubt it is Tibbetts’. Rick Rahn regrets not having success finding the body during previous searches, “I’m sure you’ve driven around the area and it’s a rural county and there are a lot of fields, woods, ditches.”
Ahead, every crime has a motive, so what was Rivera’s?
Rivera’s Motivations Have Not Been Revealed To The Public Yet
Asked what Christian Rivera’s motivations for abducting Tibbetts were, police could not give a clear answer. They said Rivera had seen Mollie in the area several times before but couldn’t say what prompted him to take action that evening.
Rivera had been living in the area as an undocumented immigrant for seven years, spending the last four working for Yarrabee Farms. The farm’s owner, Dane Lang, who is also a Republican candidate for state secretary of agriculture, says Rivera passed his background check and government’s vetting process before being hired.
Christian Rivera’s Bond Was Set At $5 MIllion
Christian Rivera made his first public appearance since being charged with the murder of Mollie Tibbetts on August 22, 2018. The 24-year-old man admitted confessed to following Mollie and taking her life. The judge set his bond at $5 million.
Rivera’s lawyer plans to request a review hearing about the large bond number. A preliminary hearing for Christian Rivera is being held on August 31. At that point we should have a clearer idea of what happens next in this devastating tale of a life lost too soon.
The United States Government Expressed Their Condolences To Tibbetts’ Family
After Rivera was arrested and charged with first degree murder, President Donald Trump declared, “it should have never happened.” Vice President Mike Pence weighed in as well, saying, “we will never forget Mollie Tibbetts.”
United States senators Chick Grassley and Joni Ernst, released a joint statement, “We are deeply saddened that this bright, young woman’s life was cut short. Our heart goes out to the family and friends of Mollie Tibbetts. No family should ever have to endure such a tragedy, especially one that could have been prevented.”
The Case Of Mollie Tibbetts Has Re-Ignited The Immigration Debate In The United States
Since the story of Mollie Tibbetts made national headlines and Christian Rivera was arrested, the on-going debate in America about undocumented immigration has come back into the national spotlight.
Tomi Lahren was vocally against undocumented immigrants on Fox & Friends when analyzing the case, “immigration kills Americans. It’s Mollie Tibbetts (today), and it could be your daughter, your sister, your friend tomorrow.” Academic research, however, points to a lower crime rate among undocumented immigrants when compared to citizens of the United States.
Mollie Tibbetts Family Released An Official Statement On Wednesday, August 22
On August 22, 2018, Mollie Tibbetts family released an official statement through the Iowa DPS, “On behalf of Mollie’s entire family, we thank all of those from around the world who have sent their thoughts and prayers for our girl. We know that many of you will join us as we continue to carry Mollie in our hearts forever.”
The statement goes on to ask the family be given time to process the tragic events and devastating loss of the their daughter. The grieving process will take time, and they would prefer, understandably, to grieve outside of the public eye.
Dalton Jack’s Brother Canceled His Wedding
Weeks after Mollie Tibbetts went missing, she was supposed to be in the Dominican Republic with Dalton Jack for his brother’s wedding. The destination wedding was going to make a perfect vacation to end her summer before starting her sophomore year of college.
After Tibbetts went missing, Jack’s brother called his wedding off out of respect for the Tibbetts family. The wedding will be reschedule at a time more appropriate for Dalton. For now, he is being given as much as he needs by his brother to grieve and process everything.
Mollie’s Two Brothers Called Her The Best Fighter They Knew
Mollie Tibbetts had two brothers, Scott and Jake. On July 24, they were interviewed by ABC where Scott said, “she’s a better fighter than anyone I know, so whatever situation she’s in, it’s not like she going to sit there and give up.”
Jake spoke of the emotional turmoil the family was going through, “we’ve gone from sad to worried to just anxious and clueless. We’ve been to every emotion there is. Now it’s just patience. That’s the hardest one, probably.” We can’t imagine what Scott and Jake are going through now, but our hearts break for them.
A Facebook Group Was Created To Help Find Mollie
“Finding Mollie Tibbetts” went live on Facebook on July 20, 2018 in an effort to help find her. The group worked tireless to raise awareness of Mollie’s disappearance. It even supported grassroots efforts, including posting flyers around the neighborhood to encourage the community to help in the search.
Within hours of posting its first message, the group had hundreds followers. As the story entered the national spotlight, it caught the eye of more than just major government figures.
Next, celebrities and athletes with ties to Iowa helped spread the word in hopes of a happy ending.
Celebrities Took Notice And Put Their Weight Behind The Cause
About a week after the news of Mollie Tibbetts disappearance went public, athletes and celebrities with connections to Iowa took notice. Tom Arnold took the cause to Twitter, writing, “PLEASE help us find this young Iowa woman. She’s been missing since July 18. My family has a home in Brooklyn IA & she is a Hawkeye.”
NBA star Harrison Barnes posted a photo of her missing persons flyer online, writing, “please spread the word especially if you’re from Iowa.” University of Iowa alumni, including Broncos’ rookie linebacker Josey Jewell, followed suit with Barnes and re-posted flyers as well.
Jack Never Gave Up Hope Mollie Would Come Home
Dalton Jack was a believer that Mollie was alive until proven otherwise. In one interview with ABC News, he said he was optimistic that Mollie would be found alive. In the same interview his re-iterated how much he loved and missed his girlfriend.
On the same day, Tibbetts mother spoke with the media, doing her best to put a brave face forward, “she is just such and outgoing, fun, loving life, loving person. She was getting ready to move into her first apartment.” In the end, both boyfriend and mother would face a dark reality but with time, both will find light in their lives again.
Mollie’s Father Had To Follow The Story From California
Mollie Tibbetts’ father, Rob, was working in Fresno, California when he learned that his daughter was missing. It couldn’t have been easy to learn about the news from another state, but he never made the search about himself, saying, “we are a tough, resilient family… This isn’t about us, this is about Mollie.”
Even though Rob lives in California, he was incredibly close to his daughter. There bond was so strong, that when he re-married in June, one mother before Mollie went missing, she acted as the best man at the wedding.
At One Point In The Investigation There Were 200 Leads
The search for Mollie Tibbetts grew so large that at one point in the investigation, the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation was sifting through over 200 leads. Amazingly, the department continued asking for leads, putting up to 40 investigators on the case a day.
Several tip lines were established so that information flow wouldn’t be delayed, including one tip line only dedicated to the Mollie Tibbettssearc. Volunteers mobilized to join the search too, including semi truck drive Edward Fisher, “I raised three daughters of my own, and it’s just tragic to see something like this happen knowing that it could be one of your own children.”
Life Will Never Go Back To Normal For The Tibbetts Family
One month into the investigation, law enforcement officials asked the Tibbetts family to allow their lives to return to normal while the investigation finished. Rob, who had flown out to Iowa earlier, reluctantly flew back to California, one week after helping move his sons into college.
Perhaps the next step for the family is going to be the hardest. Accepting reality after a tragedy is never easy, and when Rob drove past the apartment Mollie was supposed to move into going back home, we imagine his heart sank, just as ours have learning about the story of Mollie Tibbetts.