An Iowa judge on Monday rejected convicted murderer Cristhian Bahena Rivera’s request for a new trial in the killing of college student Mollie Tibbetts.
“In reviewing the evidence and testimony provided at trial, the court finds the verdict was not contrary to the weight of the evidence,” wrote Judge Joel Yates in a filing obtained by The Associated Press.
Bahena Rivera, 26, confessed to investigators that he saw Tibbetts, 20, while she was out jogging, approached her, blacked out, and then hid her dead body in a cornfield, prosecutors said. At trial, his defense insisted this was a false confession. Bahena Rivera testified that two unknown men appeared in his living room armed with a knife and gun, forced him to drive to Brooklyn, Iowa under a threat to his daughter and ex-girlfriend, and had him drive with Tibbetts’s body in the trunk of his car. In other words, the defense argued Bahena Rivera was the fall guy and that his confession was false.
Jurors did not believe this story, and they convicted the defendant of murder.
Bahena Rivera’s attorneys argued for a new trial, asserting the new information must be taken into account. That included testimony about other possible suspects and purported sex trafficking in the area. Inmate Arne Maki–who said he did not have a deal to step forward and is scheduled to be released in December–took the stand to claim Gavin Jones admitted to stabbing Tibbetts to death with a man named Dalton Hansen.
Both Jones and Hansen deny wrongdoing, however, and said they wanted to clear their names, according to The Associated Press.
“The cops haven’t talked to me,” said Jones. “No one has talked to me. You are the first person that has called me. I wasn’t involved in anything. I have alibis and everything. I am just waiting for someone [from law enforcement] to come talk to me.”
Now, with Yates’s decision, Bahena Rivera’s sentencing hearing remains set for August 30.
Aaron Keller contributed to this report.
[Image via Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette/Pool]
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