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Jury begins deliberations in case against man accused of Mollie Tibbetts’ murder

Christian Bahena Rivera (Court TV screen capture)

DAVENPORT — A jury in Davenport has started deliberations on the case against the man accused of murdering 20-year-old Mollie Tibbetts nearly three years ago as she was jogging in her hometown.

Wednesday, Cristhian Bahena Rivera testified that he did not kill Tibbetts and claimed two masked men forced him to participate in the crime.

“There weren’t two other guys,” prosecutor Scott Brown said in closing arguments this morning. “That’s a figment of his imagination,” Brown said. “All of the credible evidence in this case — all of it — points at him.”

Brown said video showing Bahena’s vehicle in Brooklyn contradicts his testimony.

“The video, the confession and the physical evidence in this case tell the story,” Brown said.

In closing comments that lasted into the lunch hour, Bahena’s defense attorney Chad Frese emphasized that the murder weapon has not been found and he suggested Bahena was ”spoon fed” his 2018 confession.

“Some of the investigation was sloppy,” Frese said, “but it really got sloppy when Cristhian Bahena Rivera got targeted.”

Brown, in a rebuttal, again cited the video showing Bahena’s car driving behind Tibbetts was the key.

“The defendant here was not targeted,” Brown said. “The evidence led officers to him.”

Frese told jurors investigators cut corners and failed to fully investigate Tibbetts’ boyfriend Dalton Jack.

“He withheld information and he told you here on the stand he didn’t deem that him having an affair on Mollie was pertinent,” Frese said.

Brown, the prosecutor, said investigators cleared Tibbetts’ boyfriend after his boss provided an alibi.

“What do you do if you’re not getting along with your girlfriend? You break up with her. You don’t take her out into the country and stab her to death,” Brown said. “…The evidence, in this case, there’s a mountain of it and it’s overwhelming and leads you to the only conclusion (that) Cristhian Bahena Rivera… he committed the murder.”

Bahena’s attorney called Tibbetts’ murder “absolutely tragic,” but he asked the jury not to seek vengeance.

“You don’t decide this case with emotions tugging at your heartstrings,” Frese said. “It’s not your job to right a wrong.”

The jury left the courtroom to begin deliberations early Thursday afternoon and after three hours did not reach a verdict. They’ll resume deliberations this morning.

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