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Lawyers for illegal immigrant convicted of murdering Mollie Tibbetts call for a new trial after jail informant claims he heard the 'real killer' confess behind bars

 The lawyers for man who was convicted of murdering Mollie Tibbetts want a new trial as two informants claim he was framed and that they know the identity of the 'real killer'.

Cristhian Bahena Rivera, a 27-year-old Mexican national, was convicted earlier this year by a jury of first-degree murder in the July 2018 stabbing death of 20-year-old Mollie Tibbetts in Brooklyn, Iowa. 

Rivera had testified that he was framed by two masked men for the kidnapping and killing of the Iowa college student - but prosecutors in May had dismissed his testimony and called it a 'figment of his imagination'.

However, two informants who do not know each other have separately come forward since Rivera's highly publicized trial - claiming the same person confessed to the crime to them.

One of the informants, a prisoner housed by the Iowa Department of Corrections, has been named as Arne Maki by Law and Crime

The inmate is believed to be Maki because court documents filed for Rivera's sentencing hearing name Maki as a witness ordered to appear before the court on Thursday.  

The name of the person has not been revealed. 

Cristhian Bahena Rivera, a 27-year-old Mexican national, was convicted earlier this year by a jury of first-degree murder in the July 2018 stabbing death of 20-year-old Mollie Tibbetts

Cristhian Bahena Rivera, a 27-year-old Mexican national, was convicted earlier this year by a jury of first-degree murder in the July 2018 stabbing death of 20-year-old Mollie Tibbetts

However, two informants who do not know each other have separately come forward since Rivera's highly publicized trial - claiming the same person confessed to the crime

However, two informants who do not know each other have separately come forward since Rivera's highly publicized trial - claiming the same person confessed to the crime

The revelations came after Rivera's attorneys, Chad and Jennifer Frese, wrote a motion filed on Friday noting they received the information about the claims from prosecutors after the trial.

Now the husband-and-wife team are seeking a new trial for their client, who came to the United States illegally as a teenager.

Judge Joel Yates has granted a defense motion for Maki to testify at Rivera's sentencing hearing on Thursday at the Poweshiek County Courthouse.

Maki has been in prison on a first offense domestic abuse charge since October 19, 2020. He is currently housed in the Mount Pleasant Correctional Facility.


That informant had recounted a conversation with a second inmate - identified in court documents as 'Inmate 2' - to a prison chaplain, then to an associate warden and a corrections officer, according to Law and Crime. 

The second inmate had allegedly confessed to Tibbetts' death while the two inmates were both incarcerated in Poweshiek County, Iowa, where Tibbetts was killed.

The informant said Inmate 2 told them his associates had kidnapped Tibbetts in a 'trap house' used for sex trafficking and that he had seen her 'bound and gagged' inside the trap house. 

The second inmate allegedly confessed to killing Tibbetts with another person and searching for someone to frame for the murder when news of her disappearance started to spread. 

Inmate Arne Maki is reported to be one of the informants who has come forward

Inmate Arne Maki is reported to be one of the informants who has come forward

Cristhian Bahena Rivera listens as Assistant Iowa Attorney General Scott Brown delivers his closing arguments in his trial, at the Scott County Courthouse in Davenport, Iowa

Cristhian Bahena Rivera listens as Assistant Iowa Attorney General Scott Brown delivers his closing arguments in his trial, at the Scott County Courthouse in Davenport, Iowa

A poster for missing University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts hangs in the window of a local business in Brooklyn, Iowa

A poster for missing University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts hangs in the window of a local business in Brooklyn, Iowa

The second inmate and their alleged accomplice - who allegedly devised the plan - dumped her body 'near a Hispanic male in order to make it appear that the Hispanic male committed the crime,' the informant claims.

He reportedly told prison officials and investigators that he thought the story 'was bluster' until he heard Rivera's testimony. 

The second informant came forward to a local sheriff´s office, claiming she was in a car with the same man a month earlier when he pulled a pistol to her head.

'That Mexican shouldn´t be in jail for killing Mollie Tibbetts because I raped her and killed her,' the man allegedly told the informant, according to the new motion. 

The second informant was described as emotional and likely intoxicated, and at least one investigator dismissed the information as not credible. 

Defense lawyers concede the new witnesses' claims don't exactly match the version of events shared by their client.

'While perhaps not every bit of the account fits neatly into defendant´s account of the events, enough of the facts fit to certainly question whether the state would have been able to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt had this information been known and presented to a jury,' they wrote. 

Rivera testified through a Spanish language interpreter in his own defense May 26 - claiming he was kidnapped at his trailer near the dairy farm where he worked by two armed masked men.

His stint on the witness stand came after homicide investigators testified that Rivera confessed to killing Tibbetts after he spotted her jogging and she rebuffed his advances.

Rivera claimed during his testimony that he didn't tell investigators about the masked men because they threatened to harm his former girlfriend, the mother of his daughter, if he did. 

Prosecutors told jurors that an autopsy found that she had been stabbed seven to 12 times in the chest, ribs, neck, and skull, and that she died from sharp force injuries
Prosecutors told jurors that an autopsy found that she had been stabbed seven to 12 times in the chest, ribs, neck, and skull, and that she died from sharp force injuries

Prosecutors told jurors that an autopsy found that she had been stabbed seven to 12 times in the chest, ribs, neck, and skull, and that she died from sharp force injuries

A map shows the location from where Tibbets went missing on July 18 and where her body was eventually found on August 21

A map shows the location from where Tibbets went missing on July 18 and where her body was eventually found on August 21

Photos of Mollie Tibbetts' partially naked and decomposing body that was dumped in an Iowa cornfield were shown to jurors on Friday as Cristhian Bahena Rivera stand trial. Pictured above is the crime scene tape around the cornstalks where her body was found in 2018

Photos of Mollie Tibbetts' partially naked and decomposing body that was dumped in an Iowa cornfield were shown to jurors on Friday as Cristhian Bahena Rivera stand trial. Pictured above is the crime scene tape around the cornstalks where her body was found in 2018


The armed men allegedly ordered him to drive his car on a rural road where Tibbetts was expected to be jogging. 

He said they had him stop the car as one of them got out, stabbed her to death and put her body in his trunk.

The young woman's badly decomposed remains were discovered a month after she went missing. 

Bahena Rivera insisted he is innocent

Bahena Rivera insisted he is innocent

They then ordered him to drive to a cornfield, instructed him to dispose of the body and not to tell anyone about what happened or else they would kill his ex-girlfriend and their young daughter, Rivera said.

Defense lawyers said Bahena Rivera never wavered from that story from the moment they began representing him in 2018. 

In their motion for a new trial, they noted that testing of blood found in his trunk showed DNA from people other than Tibbetts who haven't been identified.

Prosecutors remain confident in Bahena Rivera´s guilt and they plan to respond to the defense claims this week, according to state attorney general´s office spokesman Lynn Hicks.

During the trial, prosecutors also presented surveillance video evidence showing Rivera's black Chevrolet Malibu circling the area Tibbetts was jogging in around the time she went missing on July 18, 2018. 

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