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Mollie Tibbetts' alleged killer's trial moved to Woodbury County

Mollie Tibbetts' alleged killer's trial moved to Woodbury County

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MONTEZUMA -- The trial of the suspect charged in the murder of former University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts is being moved to Woodbury County.

The trial for Cristhian Bahena Rivera, the man accused of killing Tibbetts last summer, will be moved out of Poweshiek County.

Bahena Rivera's defense team filed a motion for a change of venue this month, saying publicity surrounding the case would prevent the selection of an impartial jury in Poweshiek County.

In the motion, Bahena Rivera's attorneys said, "Shortly after the disappearance of Ms. Tibbetts the case began to get national attention. National celebrities with Iowa ties such as NBA player, Harrison Barnes, Hollywood actor, Tom Arnold, and NFL player Josey Jewell all posted to social media concerning the disappearance of Ms. Tibbetts.

"President Trump, Vice President Pence and even Governor Reynolds thought it appropriate to weigh in and offer opinions on the case and the immigration status of Defendant, further fanning the flames of prejudice and jeopardizing the fairness of these proceedings against him."

On Monday, prosecutors filed a response agreeing it would be difficult to find a fair and impartial jury in Poweshiek County.

In their response, prosecutors stated, "It is the State’s position that a fair and impartial jury cannot reasonably be selected in Poweshiek County. Given the nature of the crimes charged, there is a substantial likelihood many prospective jurors will have heard of the facts that support it and have substantial knowledge of the investigation.

"The death of Mollie Tibbetts has touched many of the residents of Poweshiek County and her death has significantly and emotionally affected many of the residents of the county and prospective jurors making it extremely difficult to obtain a fair and impartial jury."

Since both sides agreed to move the trial, a change of venue hearing scheduled Wednesday was canceled.

The two sides met in court to determine the new location.

The trial is scheduled for September 3, 2019.

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