The illegal alien on trial for allegedly killing Iowa college student Mollie Tibbetts has been granted thousands of dollars for his defense.
Cristhian Bahena-Rivera, an illegal immigrant from Mexico who was working under an alias, told police that he followed Tibbetts before getting mad, panicking, blacking out, and finding her dead. He took law enforcement officers to her body in a cornfield in August 2018. She was stabbed multiple times.
Lawyers for the defendant said that they needed $3,200 for a forensic expert from New York state to testify and the request was granted by federal judge Joel Yates.
Yates said in a financial affidavit filed on March 19 and obtained by the Montezuma Gazette that the illegal alien is indigent and qualifies for public funds from the state.
If any additional funds are needed, the defense will need to obtain court approval, he wrote.
Defense lawyers argued that Bahena-Rivera, despite living in the United States for years, could not communicate effectively in English and that the expert is needed to provide insight on the “length, context, language barriers, and other factors involved in the police interrogation.”
Assistant Iowa Attorney General Scott Brown disagreed and said that prosecutors aren’t aware of any significant language barrier, noting that there was an interpreter present during the interviews and that the police officers who conducted another interview were fluent in Spanish.
“The defendant never indicated a lack of understanding or any question due to a language barrier at either the farm or the sheriff’s office,” Brown said in the motion.
Bahena-Rivera’s attorneys previously claimed that the foreign national had a “constitutional right” to receive American taxpayer funds to help fight the murder charges.
Without the appointment of a private investigator to assist them, Rivera’s legal team, husband and wife Chad and Jennifer Frese, said that the illegal immigrant would be “deprived of his constitutional right to a full and complete defense and equal protection under the law.”
Court documents obtained by KCCI-TV in September 2018 showed that a judge granted $5,000 in taxpayer funds so that the legal team could hire private investigative firm Gratias Investigations.
The amount is “probably considerably less than what will actually be necessary to conduct all investigation in this matter,” lawyers wrote.
With both totals combined, Bahena-Rivera has now received $8,200 in taxpayer funds for his defense.
His trial is slated to start on Sept. 3.
Final Moments of Tibbetts
Investigators said that Bahena-Rivera took them through the final moments of the 20-year-old victim during his confession.
He said that he spotted Tibbetts on July 18 while she was jogging in Brooklyn.
Investigators said in a probable cause statement obtained by the Des Moines Register that video footage showed a dark-colored Chevy Malibu approach Tibbetts as she ran near the area of Boundary and Middle Streets near Brooklyn, Iowa.
Rivera admitted to investigators that he was driving the vehicle and that he stopped driving and exited the car. He began running behind her, then alongside her, which scared Tibbetts. She told Rivera “I’m gonna call the police” and grabbed her phone.
“Rivera said he then panicked and got mad and that he then ‘blocked’ his ‘memory’ which is what he does when he gets very upset,” investigators stated.
“He doesn’t remember anything after that until he came to an intersection [back in his car],” investigators stated.
Rivera told them he made a U-turn and drove to an entrance to a cornfield and drove into a driveway. He then noticed there was an earpiece from headphones in his lap and realized that he had killed Tibbetts when he blacked out and had placed her body in the trunk.
Rivera then dragged Tibbetts on foot from his vehicle to a secluded location in the cornfield and covered her body in some corn leaves, leaving her there face up.
Rivera later led investigators to the location of the body, on Aug. 21.