An Iowa judge sentenced farm worker Cristhian Bahena Rivera to life in prison without parole for stabbing college student Mollie Tibbetts to death three years ago.
Judge Joel Yates handed down the sentence Monday, months after a jury in May found the 27-year-old Mexican national guilty of first-degree murder for the death of Tibbetts in the summer of 2018.
Life without parole is the mandatory sentence for first-degree murder in the state. Yates also ordered Rivera to pay $150,000 in restitution to Tibbetts’ family and denied him bond amid the appeals process.
“Mr. Bahena Rivera, I’ve selected this particular sentence for you after considering the nature of the offense committed by you, the harm to the victim and the victim’s family, your need for rehabilitation and the necessity for protecting the community from further offenses by you and others,” Yates said.
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Tibbetts, 20, went for a run in Brooklyn, Iowa, the night of July 18, 2018, and never returned.
Her body was found the next month in a cornfield following a search by authorities, and her death was ruled a “homicide resulting from multiple sharp force injuries.”
Rivera, who led police to Tibbett’s body, had pleaded not guilty to the crime, saying two masked men forced him to drive them with Tibbetts to the cornfield where she was killed.
Prosecutors had argued Rivera killed the college student because she rejected his romantic advances.
Prior to the sentence being handed down on Monday, Rivera looked on as a victim impact statement written by Tibbett’s mother, Laura Calderwood, was read by a witness coordination officer with the prosecution.
The statement detailed the effects of his crime, from his employee losing all his employees out of fear of what may happen to them to Tibbett’s father being denied the privileged of walking his only daughter down the aisle at her wedding.
“Mollie was a young woman who simply wanted to go for a quiet run on the evening of July 18 and you chose to violently and sadistically end that life,” Calderwood said in the statement.
“Because of your act, Dalton Jack will never get to give Mollie the engagement ring he had purchased for her,” Calderwood said. “Because of your act, I will never get to see my daughter become a mother.”
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