Mollie Tibbetts with her father, Rob Tibbetts.
In central Iowa, off of Interstate 80, there is a little town called Brooklyn. Eight weeks ago, if you googled, ‘Brooklyn, Iowa,’ you would probably get results from the regional newspapers, a community Facebook page not updated since 2016, and a few Google Maps results. Now the results are very different as the town name dominates news coverage of the man charged with the first-degree murder of 20-year-old Mollie Tibbetts. The month-long search came to a grisly end when law enforcement discovered remains they believed to be the missing University of Iowa sophomore. Reports from the autopsy indicate she died from “multiple sharp force injuries.”
Mollie was reported missing after she did not show up to work on July 19, 2018. The night before, she had been dog-sitting for her boyfriend, Dalton Jack. Jack was in Dubuque, Montana for work—an alibi quickly removing him from the list of usual suspects when a young woman goes missing—when he opened a SnapChat from Mollie sent a few hours prior. When co-workers contacted him the next day to tell him Mollie never arrived for work, Jack was immediately concerned. It was not in Mollie’s nature to be unreliable, or flighty. She was reported missing, with the search party growing from a few dozen to hundreds, as an entire community felt the loss of this well-loved student. Locals tweeted Mollie’s name and missing poster to famous Iowans in the interest of getting her face out there in the media.
The FBI soon joined the search, working in conjunction with local law enforcement, to extract data from Mollie’s Fitbit in order to piece together the last hours before she went missing. It did not take long for the community to raise over $300,000 as a reward for her safe return, “the biggest figure Crime Stoppers of Central Iowa has ever collected.” However, law enforcement soon transparently declared in a press conference they were no closer to finding Mollie than before. “I understand this is frustrating for many in the public and the media, but feel this is necessary for our investigation. As far as suspects go, we continue to look at all possibilities. I’m not in a position right now to say, we have suspects, we don’t have suspects, persons of interest or anything else.”
Mere days after that press conference, a woman’s body was found an hour outside of Brooklyn, and briefly, the locals believed the search might be over. However, state police soon negated the rumors by declaring the remains found were not those of Mollie Tibbetts. As coverage of the investigation ensued, Mollie’s father, Rob Tibbetts, offered a hopeful perspective on his daughter’s disappearance, “It’s totally speculation on my part, but I think Mollie is with someone she knows, that is in over their head,” Rob says. “That there was some kind of misunderstanding about the nature of their relationship and at this point they don’t know how to get out from under this.”
As of August 9, 2018, Crime Stoppers of Central Iowa reported the organization had fielded more than 830 tips for law enforcement on Mollie’s case. One of those tips came from an Iowan resident by the name of Devin Riley, who claimed he might have been the last person to see Mollie alive. She regularly ran by his house between three and four times per week. “She’d kind of jog down the street and towards the hill. I thought nothing of it until I heard somebody was missing, and it really hit me that I hadn’t seen that runner since then.” Around this time, the record-breaking reward sum had swelled to nearly $400,000 following the authorities launching a website about Mollie’s case.
Mollie Tibbetts (left) and Cristhian Bahena River, the man charged with her murder (right).
Finally, on August 21, 2018, more than a month since Mollie disappeared, authorities had the break in the case they needed. Mollie’s remains were found in a field, covered by corn stalks. ‘Found’ may not be the word. In fact, they were led there by a man named Cristhian Bahena Rivera. He worked on a farm near the location of the body, and had confessed to police he hid Mollie there. He was described by former classmates as “a very good person, a simple guy with no vices,” and he was liked by his co-workers for his efficient, albeit silent, work ethic. Rivera was charged with murder last Wednesday, after he confessed to following Mollie on her run. In his arrest affidavit, Rivera’s memory of his altercation with Mollie is spotty. He claimed he remembered growing angry with her, because Tibbetts had her hands on the phone, threatening to call police, but the rest is a blur. The next thing he remembered was putting a bleeding young woman in his trunk, and driving her to the field where he would conceal her body. Since his arrest, Rivera has hired a new lawyer and is being held on a $5 million bond, despite his lack of criminal record and steady employment. He has not yet entered a plea to his charge of first-degree murder.
Though the search for Mollie is over, the community has not relented in showing their support for the Tibbetts family. In addition to the record-breaking reward raised by Crime Stoppers of Central Iowa, locals and people around the country have offered their support via the hashtag #MilesforMollie, in which runners are dedicating their jogging miles to Mollie’s memory with the added sentiment they had to “keep going.” Only days after his sister’s body had been found, Scott Tibbetts—a quarterback at Brooklyn-Guernsey-Malcom High School in Iowa—led his team to victory in honor of Mollie. The Des Moines Register reported, “Scott Tibbetts decided last night to play today and led the Bears to a 35-24 win at Lisbon. The coaches tried to keep things as normal as possible but could see the strain on their players’ faces this week. Tonight, there were plenty of smiles and hugs after the game. A big B-G-M contingent on hand. Nice moment for that community.” One of the biggest testaments to Mollie’s impact on her community was the fact, in a town of a little over 1500 people, 1200 mourners turned out for her funeral. Mollie’s other brother, Jake, spoke at her service, delivering a beautiful message about Mollie’s spirit:
“I can see her dancing with joy in her heart,” he said. “Mollie’s best life here would be spent helping others, helping everyone in this room … And now she’s in a place where she can watch over everyone in here and everyone in the country and help them reach their goals, solve their problems and make their lives better, because that’s what Mollie was all about.”
Carie McMichael is the Communication and Media Specialist for Lauth Investigations International, a private investigation firm based in Indianapolis, Indiana–delivering proactive and diligent solutions for over 30 years. For more information, please visit our website.
Mollie Tibbetts, 20, has been missing since July 18, 2018, from Brooklyn, Iowa.
A new website was launched Monday that has generated over 1,500 new tips received from people trying to help find missing University of Iowa student Molly Tibbetts.
A spokesperson for Crimestoppers Greg Willey announced the reward fund has also climbed to nearly $400,000 which is a record for the 36-year old organization.
The amount of the reward is likely to continue climbing a spokesperson for Crime Stoppers told the press.
News outlets nationwide are continuously providing the public with updates, and the non-stop coverage is also breaking national records. The case is being compared to the disappearance of Natalee Holloway whose reward fund was $1 million.
House where Mollie Tibbits vanished while house-sitting. Photo Courtesy of Chris Bott, DailyMail.com
On July 18, 2018, Mollie Tibbetts, 20, vanished while house-sitting in her hometown of Brooklyn approximately 70 miles east of Des Moines with only a population of less than 1,500 people.
Mollie had been house-sitting for her boyfriend Dalton Jack’s two dogs while he was out of town working about 100 miles northeast in Dubuque.
Molly put on her shorts and sports bra, along with her running shoes and Fitbit and headed out for a jog just like she did every evening, according to neighbors.
Then she vanished.
Jack received a Snapchat message and looked at it but did not reply right away. Police have not released any information about when the message was sent. The following morning, he sent a “good morning” text the following day but received no answer. When an employee at the day-care center where Mollie worked called to see why she had not shown up for work, Mollie didn’t answer. Calls went straight to her voicemail.
Early on, dozens of volunteers searched in empty buildings, in ditches, and cornfields to no avail. Now there are millions throughout the country who know Mollie’s name due to the record number of worldwide new stations reporting about her disappearance.
“A daughter to anybody in this community is a daughter to everybody,” Brooklyn resident Joy Vanlandschoot told the Iowa Register. “We all hope the same effort would be made toward our own children.”
Mollie Tibbett’s has quickly become America’s child, that accompanies a fear every parent of a young daughter, who was just venturing out on her own, has in the back of their mind when their child doesn’t show up for work or answer their phone.
Brooklyn is in Poweshiek County, located just off Highway 6 and a couple miles north of Interstate 80 in central Iowa.
Mollie’s mother Laura Calderwood told the ABC news it has been “excruciating” not knowing where she is. “She is just such an outgoing, fun, loving life, loving person,” said her mother.
Calderwood told the Gazette, “It is impossible for me to imagine. I can’t even speculate about what might have happened.”
(FBI joined in the search for Mollie Tibbets early on.)
The Federal Bureau of Investigation joined the search, working with the local Poweshiek Sheriff’s Office and the Iowa Department of Public Safety.
However, police have remained closed-mouthed though, even canceling two weeks of scheduled new conferences meant to update the public on the investigation. People are speculating if police may know more than they are releasing.
“To have a complete stranger to come into a small town like this, someone would have to come forward and mentioned they’ve seen this person,” former FBI ex-profiler and director of the forensic sciences program at George Mason University, Mary Ellen O’Toole told Fox News. “She was likely not kidnapped. She either got into the car of someone she knew or had a relationship with, or it was someone who had a non-threatening demeanor.”
However, O’Toole said it was also unlikely Mollie ran away from her life. Though police have been tight-lipped, O’Toole’s analyzation of the case may reflect authorities believe someone Mollie knew abducted her. Everyone’s prayer is she is still alive. In an exclusive interview with Fox News, Mollie’s father Rob Tibbetts shared he also thinks his daughter is with someone she knows.
(Mollie Tibbits father Rob tell media he believes his missing daughter is with someone she knows.)
“It’s total speculation on my part, but I think Mollie is with someone she knows, that is in over their head, Rob said. “That there was some kind of misunderstanding about the nature of their relationship and, at this point, they don’t know how to get out from under this.”
He added, “Let Mollie come home and hold yourself accountable for what you’ve done so far, but don’t escalate this to a point where you can’t recover yourself.”
Robert Lowery of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children told CBS news the case has garnered national attention because it’s rare.
“We always have a small percentage like we’re seeing with Mollie, where they simply disappear and for no investigative reason or for any purpose that we can determine, and these would make Mollie’s the most difficult that anyone can face.”
While some experts in the field of missing persons believe, due to public perception, telling the public Mollie may be with someone she knows could be dangerous in what is clearly a dangerous life or death situation, they also believe appealing to the person who took Mollie may be law enforcement’s only hope right now.
(Authorities release map of areas of interest.)
On August 15th, authorities announced they are seeking to talk to anyone that was in the highlighted areas on the above map on July 18, 2018, between the hours of 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. The notice was posted on www.findingmollie.iowa.gov.
The highlighted area surrounds the vicinity of Mollie’s boyfriend’s home, where she was staying the night she vanished, and two tracts of farmland accessible only by dirt roads.
One of the farm locations next to Big Bear Creek, a waterway that runs northwest of Brooklyn in Gilman, and northeast to Marengo, emptying into the Iowa River approximately 20 miles away.
(D & M Carwash in Brooklyn, Iowa, where authorities are seeking information from anyone in the area the night Mollie Tibbits vanished.)
Another location included on the map is the D & M Carwash in the town of Brooklyn.
Police have not released why they are focusing on these areas and no suspects have been announced in the case.
“We are considering all potential scenarios,” said Mitch Mortvedt, the assistant director of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation. “It is possible Mollie came into contact with someone who caused her harm.”
Mollie’s cell phone has still not been located.
As of May 31, 2018, in the United States there were 87,608 active missing person cases in the National Crime Information Center at the FBI. Of that number 8,853 were classified Involuntary, also termed a Nonfamily abduction. The state of Iowa has 35 missing adult cases deemed involuntary in the FBI database and another 63 missing person cases listed as Other.
The “Other” category normally describes a situation where there is not enough information available to law enforcement through their investigation to deem the person missing under involuntary circumstances.
The Missing Person Information Clearinghouse at the Iowa Department of Public Safety profiles the state’s missing adult and children’s cases on their website. You can find the profile of Mollie Tibbetts on their Homepage.
Disappearance of Jodi Huisentuit
Jodi Huisentruit was a popular 27-year old news anchor at KIMT-TV in Mason City, in northern Iowa. When she failed to show up for work 23-years ago to anchor the 6 a.m. broadcast, police were notified. Until the disappearance of Mollie Tibbetts, Jodi’s disappearance was considered one of the most widely publicized missing person cases in Iowa history.
Findjodi.com ran by the news station and retired law enforcement announced on March 12, 2018, the Mason City Police Department had executed a search warrant for two vehicles owned by a man named John Vansice, now 72-year old and living in Arizona.
Court records indicated police were seeking GPS data from a 1999 Honda Civic and a 2013 GMC 1500 once owned by Vansice.
“As you know, we continue to actively work Jodi Huisentruit’s missing person case from June 27, 1995,” said Mason City Police Chief Jeff Brinkley.
(Photograph taken at Jodi Huisentruit’s birthday just weeks before her disappearance.)
The day prior to vanishing, Jodi had attended a golf tournament and according to Vansice, went to his house afterword to view a videotape of her birthday party earlier that month.
Approximately 4 a.m. on June 27, 1995, KIMT-TV producer Amy Kuns realized Jodi had failed to show up for work and called Jodi’s apartment. Jodi answered and explained to her boss that she had overslept and leaving momentarily to drive to work.
By 6 a.m. Jodi had still not arrived so Kuns filled in for her on the Morning Show “Daybreak.
At 7 a.m. the news station called the police.
When police arrived at her apartment complex they found Jodi’s red Mazda Miata parked in her usual parking place. They also found what appeared to be a struggle at the car and personal items to include Jodi’s bent car key, indicating force reflecting an abduction.
In September 1995 the Huisentruit family hired a private investigator from Minnesota, who then enlisted the help of another private investigator out of Nebraska who worked to take the story to national news outlets like Unsolved Mysteries, America’s Most Wanted and Psychic Detectives.
Police have conducted over a thousand interviews during the investigation into the disappearance of Iowa’s beloved news anchor.
The March 2018 police activity reflects the authority’s relentless efforts to find out what happened to Jodi. Her family and the news station she once worked for refuse to give up hope.
(Jodi Huisentruit’s sister JoAnn Nathe visits billboard dedicated by KIMT-TV.)
Last month, Jodi’s sister JoAnn Nathe, along with her daughter Kristen visited Mason City to see the billboards dedicated to Jodi on her 50th birthday by the website group.
The family also released a statement read by KIMT-TV General Manager John Shine.
We would like to send out a big thank you to the members of the Find Jodi team for all the work they have done and continue to do in trying to find answers and keeping Jodi’s case alive, including these beautiful billboards.
It is amazing to us that many of the members never met or knew Jodi personally, yet they are so willing to give of their own time and resources to help solve the case and bring Jodi the justice she deserves.
We would especially like to thank Josh Benson, his wife Tara Manis Benson, and Caroline Lowe for all the effort they put into making these billboards a reality. We are so grateful, and we know Jodi would be as well.
We would also like to say thank you to the members of Jodi’s Network of Hope for all the work they do in making something good out of something so tragic. From scholarships and safety training to the annual golf tournament, you help keep Jodi’s spirit alive, and we are grateful to you.
Thank you for the continued support in our mission to bring Jodi home.
As reported in the Star Tribune, just last month, remains were found in a rural area near Mason City, and a moment of hope is realized by Huisentruit’s family and friends.
Thomas Lauth. Founder of Lauth Missing Persons has worked over twenty-years on missing person cases and considered an expert in the field. “With the tragic disappearance of their daughter the Tibbetts’s family should not give up hope. Family and friends should continue to place Mollie’s information daily into the media spotlight and be in close contact with investigators. With Mollie’s case making national news, other missing person cases stand to be revived by the public interest. Like all families of missing persons, they hold on to hope and sadly, some endure years not knowing.”
To learn more about missing persons investigations, please visit our website.
Dalton Jack was at his construction job in Dubuque, Montana on the night of July 18th, 2018. He was working almost 100 miles away from his home in Brooklyn, Iowa. There, he had a sweetheart who was missing him—anxiously waiting for him to return so they could soon travel to the Dominican Republic to watch Jack’s older brother get married. Her name is Mollie, and Jack is just one of many who love and adore her for being “the sweetest, kindest, most caring person.” Now Jack, along with family and friends, police, and even the FBI, are conducting a furious search to find Mollie Tibbetts in the days following her mysterious disappearance from a rural Iowa farming community.
Later that evening of July 18th, around 10 PM, Jack opened a SnapChat message from Mollie. She was at his house, watching his dogs for him while he worked. “It was just a selfie with a caption, and I don’t remember what the caption said,” he said. “It looked like she was inside.” The next afternoon, Jack got a call from Mollie’s coworker, saying that Mollie did not call into work that day and never showed up to work her shift. That’s when Jack noticed that Mollie had not opened any of the messages he’d sent her since he received her snap the night before. Jack began contacting her family and close friends to see if anyone had heard from her. No one had. They called the local hospital, but Mollie wasn’t there either, prompting Jack to make a lengthy drive back to Brooklyn.
Misinformation in the media has reported that Mollie was snatched while on a regular evening jog. Jack told authorities that it was unclear what time Mollie’s last snap chat was sent, but it was a few hours before Jack actually opened it—around the time Mollie would have regularly gone out for a jog, as the weather was starting to cool off. “I read somewhere that she was running in a cornfield. That’s obviously not true,” said Mollie’s aunt, Kim Calderwood. “The run happened and then she was at the house as far as we know. I don’t think she would’ve run in the dark,” Calderwood said.
The investigation into Mollie’s disappearance has left local law enforcement mystified. Brooklyn, Iowa is a close, friendly farming community, where no one is a stranger to their neighbors. Poweshiek County Sheriff Thomas Kriegel cannot remember anyone in the community ever being missing for this long in the past, but the geography of Brooklyn is making the search difficult. “We’re surrounded by farm ground — corn and soy beans. Right now, the corn is probably eight, nine feet tall. The only way you can search it is basically walk down every other row,” he said. “It’s difficult. Even the planes flying over have a difficulty looking down in the corn rows.” The police at this time have named no suspects, having cleared Dalton Jack after validating his alibi in Dubuque. They have not yet ruled out abduction. They hope to utilize the data from Mollie’s cell phone and her fitness tracker to answer some questions about what happened that night. According to the New York Post, “Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation spokesman Mitch Mortvedt said Wednesday that investigators believe they’ve ‘put together a pretty solid timeline’ of what 20-year-old Mollie Tibbetts was doing before she was last seen jogging in her hometown of Brooklyn, Iowa.” The article goes on to say investigators only wish they could comb the information faster in the interest of finding Mollie.
In just a week, the search party has ballooned from dozens to hundreds, with the FBI recently joining the effort. In the first days of her disappearance, friends and family tweeted to celebrities with Iowan roots who might use their fame to spread Mollie’s face and name across the country, in the hopes that someone has seen her. Celebrities who participated in this effort, including Adam Devine, Brandon Routh, American Idol winner Maddie Poppe, Kurt Warner, and comedian Tom Arnold.
In the meantime, her family agonizes over their missing daughter, but they have not given up hope that Mollie will soon return to them, safe and unharmed. “We know that Mollie knows how much we love her and how important she is to her entire family,” a cousin told PEOPLE. “We want her to know that we will never stop looking for her.”
This is a developing story…
Carie McMichael is the Communications and Media Specialist for Lauth Investigations International, writing about investigative topics such as missing persons and corporate investigations. For more information on missing persons topics, please visit our website.