Mollie Tibbetts murder: Iowa judge denies motion to compel more evidence after two new witnesses come forward

Mollie Tibbetts murder trial juror says the case was ‘very emotional’

Juror Robert Reed told Fox News the panel was confident in its decision, noting that the charged nature of the case didn’t play a role in the outcome.

Cristhian Bahena Rivera, 27, was set to be sentenced to life in prison on Thursday for the 2018 murder of 20-year-old Mollie Tibbetts, but an Iowa judge delayed that sentencing when Bahena Rivera’s attorneys filed a motion to compel and motion for a new trial in light of two new witnesses who allegedly blamed a different man for Tibbets’ murder. 

Judge Joel Yates on Friday denied the defense’s motion for prosecutors to turn over evidence related to the new alleged suspect and sex trafficking rings in the area, saying that the defense’s “examination of those investigations would be nothing more than a fishing expedition.”

A hearing on the motion for a new trial will be held on July 27, while the sentencing date is yet to be rescheduled. 

Bahena Rivera, a Mexican national who came to the United States illegally as a teenager, was convicted by a jury of first-degree murder on May 28 in the stabbing death of Tibbetts. 

Her blood was found in the trunk of Bahena Rivera’s car and he led authorities to her body in a remote cornfield about a month after she disappeared, but Bahena Rivera made the surprise claim during his trial that two masked men actually stabbed Tibbetts then forced him to dispose of her body. 

In the motions that were filed this week, Bahena Rivera’s attorneys claimed that two new witnesses came forward in May during the trial with information that supports their client’s claims. 

One of the new witnesses, an inmate named Arne Maki, said that a fellow inmate, 21-year-old Gavin Jones, confessed to killing Tibbetts with an associate after she was kidnapped into a sex-trafficking ring. 

Jones’ ex-girlfriend walked into a sheriff’s office independently on the same day in May and said that Jones confessed to killing Tibbets a month earlier while they were in a car together, Bahena Rivera’s defense attorneys claim. 

Cristhian Bahena Rivera listens to testimony that has been translated into Spanish by an interpreter during his trial at the Scott County Courthouse in Davenport, Iowa. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette via AP, Pool) 

Prosecutors rejected the new claims Thursday, saying that there should be “no doubt” about Bahena Rivera’s guilt and that the new allegations aren’t credible. 

“No evidence supports it. None. Zero,” Assistant Attorney General Scott Brown said in court. 

Jones and another man who was named by defense attorneys as a potential suspect denied having anything to do with Tibbetts’ murder, telling the Associated Press that they want to clear their names. 

“I wasn’t involved in anything. I have alibis and everything,” Jones told the news outlet. “I am just waiting for someone to come talk to me.”

Defense attorneys also asserted that another man, 50-year-old James Lowe, is being investigated for running a sex trafficking ring in the area, but Judge Yates dismissed any connection between Tibbetts’ disappearance and the alleged sex trafficking ring. 

“Counsel for Defendant have asserted there is a connection between James Lowe and Gavin Jones, but this point has not been articulated by any witness or piece of evidence,” the judge wrote Friday. 

Fox News’ Melissa Chrise contributed to this report, as well as The Associated Press.

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