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Bahena Rivera sentencing delayed, motion connects Xavior Harrelson case

Published: Jul. 14, 2021 at 9:38 AM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - The Court ruled to delay sentencing of the man convicted of killing Mollie Tibbets until after a hearing on the motion for a new trial.

This comes after defense attorneys for Cristhian Bahena Rivera filed a Motion for Continuance late Tuesday night.

Bahena Rivera had been scheduled to be sentenced Thursday to a mandatory life in prison sentence. A jury convicted him in May of killing 20-year-old Mollie Tibbetts in Poweshiek County in 2018. During the trial, Bahena Rivera blamed two mystery men for killing Tibbetts and then leaving him with her body to hide in a cornfield.

The motion filed earlier this week comes after a new appeal said an inmate came forward during the trial claiming a former cellmate had admitted to being involved in the killing of Mollie Tibbetts.

The motion says the inmate was interviewed on May 26, before the trial ended.

The inmate reported that another inmate, that documents refer to as Inmate 2, said he was staying in a “trap house” owned by a 50-year-old man involved in the sex trafficking trade. Inmate 2 admitted he saw Mollie Tibbetts bound and gagged at a second trap house that he had gone to.

The document says Inmate 2 admitted to killing Mollie Tibbetts. The motion also claims a search warrant corroborates the “trap house” account. The account is being filed along with the Supplemental Motion for a New Trial.

The motion focuses on James Manuel Lowe, 50, said to be operating a sex trafficking ring out of 405 East Market, New Sharon, Iowa in the summer of 2018.

Lowe was at the federal courthouse in Cedar Rapids Wednesday afternoon on an unrelated federal firearm charge. During the hearing, prosecutors brought up the fact his name had come up in relation to Tibbetts’ and Harrelson’s cases. The judge worried he would flee the area in-part because of the new allegations. Lowe is now being held in custody for the federal charge.

The motion from Cristhian Bahena Rivera’s defense team said it has found at least 10 children missing from Poweshiek County or adjoining counties from the past few years, including the Xavior Harrelson case.

The motion says an investigation discovered that James Lowe was in a relationship with Xavior’s mother, Sarah Harrelson, and they lived together for a period of time.

The motion also claims a violation of the Due Process Clause, saying based on newly discovered evidence, prosecutors failed to turn over reports involving investigations into the trap houses and kidnappings.

Defense attorneys say they need more time to prepare for a new trial, which is why they’re calling for the delay.

Court filings from the state late Wednesday afternoon said the defense knew about the new information before Bahena Rivera’s verdict came back, and that they chose not to share it.

A hearing will be held Thursday morning regarding the new allegations.

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