The lawyer for the man accused of killing University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts says he may request a change of venue for the trial. Chad Frese is representing 24-year-old Cristhian Rivera, who is charged with killing the 20-year-old Tibbetts after following her on a run in her hometown of Brooklyn.
“We have to find a place, no matter where it is, whether it’s Poweshiek County or anyplace else where we can find a jury of 12 people who can hear the case impartially,” Frese says. Frese spoke after he and Rivera appeared at the Powesheik County Courthouse Wednesday to plead not guilty to a first-degree murder charge.
Tibbetts disappeared while out for a run in her hometown of Brooklyn on July 18th and the case got national and international attention as family, friends and law enforcement searched for more than a month trying to find her.
Federal officials say Rivera, is in the country illegally from Mexico. Frese says that won’t be part of the trial. “Immigration really has nothing to do with this case and we aren’t going to let that become an issue with this case,” according to Frese. “Our focus is Cristhian’s charge that he is facing and the death of this woman. Whether or not he is an illegal or legal immigrant has nothing to do with the facts of this case,” Frese says.
Investigators say Rivera told them he doesn’t remember killing Tibbetts because he blacked out, and that has led to some speculation about what Frese will use for his defense. The lawyer is not giving any details on his strategy beyond the immigration issue.
Rivera also waived his right to a speedy trial during the arraignment Wednesday. The trial has been scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. on April 16th.
(By Joe Lancello, KBOE, Oskaloosa)