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The Latest: Defense: Iowa suspect’s confession unreliable

Posted at 2:20 PM, Nov 14, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-14 15:23:13-05

MONTEZUMA, Iowa (AP) — The Latest on a court hearing in the case against the man charged with killing University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts (all times local):

2:10 p.m.

A defense expert says a confession by the suspect in the death of University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts is not reliable because he was sleep deprived and susceptible to coercion.

Brian Leslie, a consultant with expertise in interrogation techniques, reviewed video of an 11-hour interrogation of Cristhian Bahena Rivera in August 2018.

He noted that Rivera denied involvement in the disappearance and death of Tibbetts until near the end, around 4 a.m., after he had been falling in and out of sleep. He says he would “not take a lot of what was said as credible.”

Leslie testified on the second day of a hearing on Rivera’s motion to suppress statements made during that interrogation. Judge Joel Yates said Thursday he would take the matter under advisement and rule as quickly as possible.


12:20 p.m.

Relatives of the man suspected of killing University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts say they rushed to a sheriff’s office after learning he was being questioned and waited for hours without getting to speak with him.

Alejandra Cervantes Valle testified Thursday that she asked a police officer whether the family needed to call a lawyer for her nephew, Cristhian Bahena Rivera, during the August 2018 interrogation.

Valle says the officer told her that was unnecessary because they would be done in 15 minutes. The family left two hours later without any update.

Police say Rivera later led officers to a cornfield where they say he hid Tibbetts’s body beneath a pile of leaves.

Rivera’s relatives testified for the defense’s argument that his statements weren’t voluntary and should be suppressed.


10:30 a.m.

A judge won’t consider written testimony from a man who claims he was unaware of his legal rights when he allegedly confessed to killing University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts.

Judge Joel Yates ruled Thursday that he will not allow lawyers for Cristhian Bahena Rivera to submit a written affidavit from their client unless he agrees to submit to cross-examination by prosecutors.

Lawyers for Rivera, who is charged with murder, say they won’t allow him to testify. Yates rejected the affidavit.

Yates is considering a defense motion to suppress statements Rivera made during an interrogation in August 2018 in which he implicated himself in Tibbetts’ death. She disappeared a month earlier while running.

Rivera says in the affidavit that he was unaware of certain rights and scared to invoke others.