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Judge considers new evidence in Mollie Tibbetts case

Published: Jul. 15, 2021 at 6:46 AM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Thursday’s hearing regarding new allegations in the murder of Mollie Tibbetts ended with the judge saying he expects to have a ruling on the Motion to Compel by the end of the week, and a date for the motion for a new trial yet to be determined.

Earlier this year, a jury convicted Cristhian Bahena Rivera in the death of Mollie Tibbetts. Bahena Rivera led police to the University of Iowa student’s body in a cornfield in 2018.

Bahena Rivera’s sentencing had been set for Thursday, but his attorney’s filed an appeal, causing a delay.

They believe Tibbett’s case is connected to the disappearance of Xavior Harrelson, and that the state is withholding vital information that could help their case.

Defense attorneys said after Bahena Rivera testified, two people came forward. One was Arne Maki, who was at the courthouse during Thursday’s hearing. He’s the one whose cellmate, Gavin Jones, made statements that he and another person killed Mollie Tibbetts.

Jones said Tibbetts was abducted for the purpose of sex trafficking.

Defense attorney Jennifer Frese said another woman, a girlfriend of Gavin Jones, also came forward saying Jones had said he killed Tibbetts. They said a woman who was held in a trap house, owned by James Lowe, alleged she was held captive in the home and could hear other people. Frese says the DCI has conducted interviews, but that evidence hasn’t been produced.

Court documents from the defense said Lowe had lived with Xavior Harrelson’s mother.

Defense Attorney Chad Frese called on the state to produce additional evidence, saying it is refusing to provide information.

The defense is asking specifically for any information involving:

  • Sex trafficking investigation involving James Lowe/others in Poweshiek or adjoining counties
  • Pending investigations of Lowe from Mollie’s disappearance/present
  • Pending investigations involving Jones

The prosecution said they resist everything the defense is asking for. They’re pointing to Bahena Rivera’s own testimony at the trial, which they say is not consistent with what the defense is bringing forward now.

Prosecutor Scott Brown said the state brought this alleged confession to the defense during the trial, and they chose to press forward.

Brown says Chad Frese admitted that the jailhouse confession was inconsistent with testimony.

Judge Yates said he understands the requests from the defense, as well as the state’s resistance. He said he expects to have a written ruling by the end of the week on the Motion to Compel.

Yates will now work with the state and the defense to set a date on the motion for a new trial. No sentencing date will likely be set until after the motion for a new trial hearing is held.

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