AP NEWS

Judge pauses murder case as Iowa Supreme Court mulls appeal

January 22, 2020 GMT

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — A judge is pausing the prosecution of a man charged with killing University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts while the Iowa Supreme Court consider whether to grant a rare pretrial appeal.

Judge Joel Yates on Wednesday stayed the first-degree murder case against Cristhian Bahena-Rivera, the farmhand accused of killing Tibbetts in July 2018.

The stay will continue until the Iowa Supreme Court decides whether to grant Rivera’s appeal of a decision issued by Yates last month that allowed key evidence to be presented to jurors. It’s uncertain whether Rivera’s Feb. 4 trial will proceed.

The Supreme Court has asked prosecutors to respond to Rivera’s appeal application by Jan. 27. It will then decide whether to consider the issues raised by Rivera now or allow the trial to proceed.

Investigators say Rivera stalked Tibbetts while she was out for a run in Brooklyn, Iowa, stabbed her to death after a confrontation and dumped her body in a cornfield. They say he led them to her body after a lengthy interrogation.

Rivera’s lawyers argue that much of the evidence should be suppressed because his cooperation was coerced and he wasn’t initially read his legal rights. Yates ruled that his statements were voluntary and key evidence is admissible.