Illegal immigrant convicted of murder in death of Mollie Tibbetts

Cristhian Bahena Rivera reacts after the verdict is announced in his trial, Friday, May 28, 2021, at the Scott County Courthouse in Davenport, Iowa. A jury on Friday found Bahena Rivera guilty of first-degree murder in the stabbing death of Mollie Tibbetts, a University of Iowa student who vanished while out for a run in 2018. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, pool)

Cristhian Bahena Rivera reacts after the verdict is announced in his trial, Friday. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, pool)

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UPDATED 4:05 PM PT – Friday, May 28, 2021

An Iowa jury has found an illegal immigrant guilty of first-degree murder in the death of college student Mollie Tibbetts. Cristhian Bahena Rivera was convicted on Friday following only 7.5 hours of deliberation.

This comes after he testified in his own defense earlier this week, claiming two unknown men forced him to follow and kidnap Tibbetts while she was on a jog back in 2018. Rivera alleges one of the men killed Tibbetts and put her body in the trunk of his car before forcing him to drive to a corn field where he helped hide her body.

FILE - In this September 2016 file photo provided by Kim Calderwood, Mollie Tibbetts poses for a picture during homecoming festivities at BGM High School in her hometown of Brooklyn, Iowa. Video evidence, DNA analysis and a partial confession will be critical to proving Cristhian Bahena Rivera, a farm laborer, stabbed Tibbetts, a University of Iowa student, to death while she was out for a run in 2018, a prosecutor told jurors Wednesday, May 19, 2021. (Kim Calderwood via AP, File)

In this Sept. 2016 file photo provided by Kim Calderwood, Mollie Tibbetts poses for a picture during homecoming festivities at BGM High School in her hometown of Brooklyn, Iowa. (Kim Calderwood via AP, File)

Rivera testified that he was afraid of the men and said they had told him they would harm his family, including his daughter, if he did not cooperate.

The murder conviction carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. However, Rivera’s defense team plans to appeal the decision.

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