FILE – In this Aug. 21, 2018, file photo, a poster for the miss of the University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts hangs in the window of a local business in Brooklyn, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Before investigators arrested a farmhand in the death of Iowa runner Mollie Tibbetts, she investigated a neighbor concerned with the washing of his car hours after she disappeared, a friend who deleted his mobile phone to the data, Nebraska man who ditched his vehicle nearby, and a farmer with a history of stalking women.
New unsealed search warrant reviewed by The Associated Press indicates that four men were the subject of the police are important in times during the five-week search for the missing 20-year-old University of Iowa student. The documents offer new details about how Tibbetts’ July 18 disappear in the centre of Brooklyn, Iowa, stumped agents as the mystery became the focus of national media attention, and one of the largest investigations in the history.
The suspect eventually charged in Tibbetts’ death, Cristhian Bahena-Rivera, not on their radar until shortly before he allegedly led them to her body in a cornfield in August.
Researchers say that Rivera, 24, followed Tibbetts in a car and then on foot when they are out for an evening run, kidnapped her after a fight and stabbed her to death. Rivera was identified as a suspect after officers monitoring images show a Chevy Malibu that they later linked to him. Rivera, who is scheduled to stand trial, is a Mexican national who was allegedly in the U.S. illegally .
Prior to that time, researchers had focused attention on four others, in the suspect of the kidnapping, based on circumstances and seemingly suspicious behavior. They faced police interviews, searches of their vehicles and property and the investigation of their mobile phone data before agents determined they had nothing to do with Tibbetts’ disappear.
“It was not a fun thing to go through, that’s for sure,” said Tim Tometich, 42, who lives along the route where Tibbetts was last seen. “But we wanted to get her found and home safe and, of course, understand they had a job to do and that is necessary for the detection of each lead that they had.”
Tometich attracted the attention of agents after obtained surveillance images from a Brooklyn car wash to show him the wash of a dark SUV at 10:30 a.m. on July 18, hours after Tibbetts disappeared. But he told the researchers that he was not in the car washing to three days later-and that his credit card data, it would appear that. A state agent seeking a warrant to obtain Tometich the phone data claimed it was “untrue” on the basis of video-and business administration. Tometich declined to comment.
All of the men were later excluded as suspects through further research, said Mitch Mortvedt, assistant director of the Division of Criminal Investigation.
“In a study we come across the people who raise an eyebrow to us. They have absolutely nothing to do with the problem that we are now to investigate, but their behavior draws your attention for a short time,” he said. “There was a handful of which are scattered throughout the five weeks.”
Rivera’s lawyer, Chad Frese, said he is aware of the persons described in the warrants, but that it is premature to comment on the defense strategy.
Mortvedt said the farmer of interest was longer than the other, in part because he gave several notable media interviews in which he denied involvement, but acknowledged his criminal past. He left the agents to him and search his house and property outside of Brooklyn, about 200 yards (182 metres) where the researchers found that Tibbetts’ cellphone dropped in the network.
The research was driven by technology from the beginning. Tibbetts’ phone records indicated that her rate of movement on a rural road in the area of Brooklyn flew quickly, as if she was going to run to travel in a car. The researchers then obtained a warrant requiring Google to provide data showing that users can be traced back to that environment.
One of the four such Google clients was a 17-year-old, who was Facebook friends with Tibbetts. The teen’s brother was also the construction of the crew as Tibbetts’ boyfriend, who the city was when she disappeared, so the researchers assume that he might have known Tibbetts was alone in the house. The teenager told the officers that he was at home on July 18, but later said he was mowing a cemetery. He suspected when he told the officers that he recently “wiped” smartphone of all stored data and not on him.
The focus of intense interest early on was a 58-year-old Stanton, Nebraska man, who came with a car dealer is 30 miles (48 km) east of Brooklyn on July 20. The man told the seller that he was driving to visit a foreign friend, while she was in Indiana, but that his 1989 Chevy Grand Marquis had transmission problems, according to search warrant materials. He bought a used car for $3,500 and left the Chevy in there, seen the license plates and a small bag with him. He said that he would be back for the Chevy — which a witness said appeared to be a suspicious vehicle she saw in the near Tibbetts’ home on July 18 — but not contact information.
Agents searched the vehicle after seeing a red spot on the back seat. They find hair, including dark that they thought it would have belonged to Tibbetts, and sent them to the crime lab for examination. They obtained warrants for information of the man are two Facebook accounts, one of which was the pages of dozens of scantily clad female athletes and models.
But Mortvedt said nothing in the car tied him to Tibbetts, and the man was excluded as a suspect.
“As soon as we started with a swim in a few of them, everyone as a team had the confidence that we can safely eliminate them,” he said.