Judge denies new trial request in Mollie Tibbetts case

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Cristhian Bahena Rivera

FILE – In this July 15, 2021, file photo, Cristhian Bahena Rivera appears during a hearing at the Poweshiek County Courthouse in Montezuma, Iowa. Bahena Rivera was convicted of killing University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts in 2018. The lead investigator in the death, Division of Criminal Investigation agent Trent Vileta expressed confidence Tuesday, July 27, 2021, that the right man was convicted, rejecting defense claims that her abduction could be tied to other local criminal suspects. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette, Pool, File)

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – A judge has denied a convicted man’s request for a new trial in the 2018 killing of University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts.

Judge Joel Yates issued his ruling Monday, clearing the way for sentencing to proceed in the trial of Cristhian Bahena Rivera. The farmhand who came to the U.S. illegally as a teenager was convicted in May of first-degree murder in the killing of Tibbetts, who disappeared while out for a run near her Iowa hometown.

Bahena Rivera was to be sentenced to life in prison last month, but Yates postponed sentencing to allow defense attorneys to present a new theory about who killed Tibbetts based on information two witnesses gave police.

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