Bahena Rivera’s attorneys ask state for more information on people they believe were involved with Tibbett’s death

Published: Jul. 15, 2021 at 6:52 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Cristhian Bahena Rivera returned to court today, but not to be sentenced to life in prison for killing Mollie Tibbetts, as originally planned. Instead, a hearing was held today to address new information the defense brought forward this week. They’re claiming Tibbetts’ case is somehow related to the disappearance of Xavior Harrelson.

Harrelson went missing from Poweshiek County the second to last day of testimony during Bahena Rivera’s trial. The defense argues the timing of Xavior’s disappearance and the location, are no coincidence. The prosecution disagrees.

The tip about someone confessing to Tibbett’s murder came from an inmate named Arne Maki, who was at the hearing Thursday.

“Arne Maki after listening to Cristhian Bahena Rivera testify at trial realized that Mr. Bahena Rivera’s statements corroborated a statement by another inmate that he resided with at the Keokuk County jail. That inmates name is Gavin Jones,” Defense Attorney Jennifer Frese said.

According to Frese, both Maki and Jones’ ex-girlfriend came forward during the trial and named Jones as Tibbetts’ killer.

The defense believes Tibbetts was abducted for the purpose of sex trafficking before she was killed, and that a ring was being run out of an alleged drug home in New Sharon. They claim a man named James Lowe was running the alleged ring and now they want additional evidence to help prove it.

That’s why the defense is asking the state for information on investigations involving Lowe, Gavin Jones and alleged sex trafficking in Poweshiek and adjoining counties.

“We resist providing anything that they’re asking for,” Assistant Iowa Attorney General Scott Brown said at the hearing.

Brown told Judge Yates the state won’t be handing over any evidence voluntarily. This leaves it up to Judge Yates to rule whether the state has to hand over the information or not.

The defense believes the new players they’ve brought up in this case, directly tie it to the disappearance of Xavier Harrelson.

“It is no coincidence that this boy was abducted the same time that this trial wrapped up. The same time that Mr. Bahena testified,” Frese said after the hearing.

“The fact that they would put this information in a public document which we did try to get ahead of, is unconsciousable in my mind and now they want access to that? It’s a pending investigation. That cannot happen,” Brown told the judge.

The mother of Xavier Harrelson’s best friend, Samantha Rix was outside of the courthouse. Rix told us she knows James Lowe personally, so the accusations are scary.

“He’s helped me work on a couple of my vehicles at times, I mean I’ve been alone with this man,” Rix said.

Rix told us Lowe dated Harrelson’s mom at one point, and had a good relationship with Xavier.

“I have seen that man interact with this little boy and it is disgusting if this comes out to be true,” she added.

Lowe is in custody on an unrelated federal firearm charge.

Bahena Rivera’s defense team not only believe he’s innocent, but that newfound evidence could help in Xavier’s case, and possibly others.

“Ten kids in this area have gone missing. We’ve provided that. There’s something rotten within this area,” Chad Frese said at the hearing.

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