Investigators have said there is no connection between Mollie Tibbetts’ murder and the disappearance of an 11-year-old boy, after the convicted killer’s defense claimed the child’s mom’s ex-boyfriend could be tied to her 2018 stabbing.
Xavior Harrelson, 11, disappeared on May 27 from his home at a trailer park in Montezuma, Poweshiek County – the same rural Iowa county where Tibbetts was abducted and killed while out for a run back on July 2018.
Harrelson’s disappearance came just hours before Cristhian Bahena Rivera, 27, was found guilty by a jury of murdering the 20-year-old student.
Almost two months on, Harrelson has not been seen or heard from since.
Defense attorneys for Bahena Rivera said last week the two cases may be linked based on new information from two new witnesses and requested a new trial for their client.
In a court filing, the defense claimed Tibbetts may have been abducted as part of an Iowa sex trafficking ring headed up by 50-year-old James Lowe – the former live-in boyfriend of Harrelson’s mom.
Lowe then allegedly ordered two other men – 21-year-old Gavin Jones and 24-year-old Dalton Hansen – to kill Tibbetts after her abduction drew too much publicity.
The bombshell allegations came from two new witnesses who came forward after the trial to claim Jones had confessed to being Tibbetts’ real killer.
Investigators have said there is no connection between Mollie Tibbetts’ murder and the disappearance of 11-year-old Xavior Harrelson in the same area. Pictured Harrelson left and Tibbetts right
Cristhian Bahena Rivera, 27, pictured during his trial. His defense claimed last week Harrelson’s mom’s ex-boyfriend could be tied to Tibbetts’ 2018 murder
Assistant Director of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation Mitch Mortvedt on Wednesday denied there is any evidence linking the two cases and said investigators do not have any reason to believe Harrelson may have been sex trafficked.
Mortvedt said the only similarity is that both victims lived in Poweshiek County.
‘That’s the only thing that we have come up with at this point,’ Mortvedt told KCRG.
‘You know, we have nothing to indicate, at this time, that there was anything to do with human trafficking in Xavior’s disappearance.’
Mortvedt said investigators are keeping an open mind regarding their search for the missing boy and do not want to jump to any conclusions on whether or not he is alive.
He said the investigation is still very much active.
However, Mortvedt told Fox authorities are ‘confident’ in the conviction of Bahena Rivera for Tibbetts’ murder and that he ‘acted alone.’
A prosecutor in the case said there is ‘zero’ evidence to indicate Bahena Rivera is not responsible.
Jones and Hansen have both denied any involvement in Tibbett’s kidnap and murder and both denied knowing Lowe.
Jones said he hadn’t spoken with investigators but was keen to do so in order to clear his name.
‘The cops haven’t talked to me. No one has talked to me. You are the first person that has called me,’ Jones told Associated Press Friday.
‘I wasn’t involved in anything. I have alibis and everything. I am just waiting for someone to come talk to me.’
Hansen called the allegations ‘crazy’ and said he has ‘no clue why my name even got brought up with this.’
In a court filing, the defense said Tibbetts was abducted as part of an Iowa sex trafficking ring headed up by James Lowe (pictured)- the former live-in boyfriend of Harrelson’s mom
In a court hearing in Iowa last Thursday, Bahena Rivera’s defense presented two new witnesses who said Jones had confessed to Tibbetts’ murder.
Arne Maki, an inmate in the Iowa Department of Corrections, claimed Jones confided in him about the killing while the two were serving time together at the Keokuk County Jail together.
Jones allegedly told him Tibbetts was first held in a ‘trap house’ that was used for sex trafficking, the defense said.
Lowe allegedly owned the trap house and ran a sex trafficking ring in the area.
When the publicity surrounding Tibbetts’ abduction grew, Lowe allegedly ordered Jones and Hansen to kill her, Maki claimed.
Lowe allegedly came up with a plan for Jones and Hansen to stab Tibbetts and frame a Hispanic man for her murder, according to court filings.
Bahena Rivera’s defense team also presented statements by a second witness, Jones’s ex-girlfriend Lyndsey Marie Voss, who claimed he had confessed to Tibbetts’ rape and murder.
Harrelson, 11, disappeared on May 27 from his home at a trailer park in Montezuma, Poweshiek County (pictured above) – the same rural Iowa county where Tibbetts was abducted and killed while out for a run back on July 2018
Harrelson’s disappearance came just hours before Bahena Rivera was found guilty of Tibbetts’ murder. Almost two months on, Harrelson (above) has not been seen or heard from since
Voss told investigators she had been in a car with Jones when he allegedly pointed a gun to her head and said: ‘that Mexican shouldn’t be in jail for killing Mollie Tibbetts because I raped her and killed her.’
Documents obtained by DailyMail.com show Voss was later granted a restraining order against Jones on June 11.
Lowe was previously accused of running a sex trafficking ring out of a home and kidnapping a woman he met in Tibbetts’s hometown in May 2018, the defense said.
The attorneys said they learned only last week about a criminal investigation that centered on Lowe, who allegedly met one of his sex trafficking victims in May 2018 at a gas station in Brooklyn, Tibbetts’ hometown of 1,700 people that is roughly 50 miles west of Iowa City.
The woman told investigators that the man lured her to a house in the nearby town of New Sharon, where she was repeatedly drugged, raped, and held against her will until August 2018, court records show.
The woman said she sometimes would hear other women’s voices in the home.
Defense attorneys said prisoner Arne Maki (left) and Jones’s ex-girlfriend Lyndsey Marie Voss (right) have come forward to claim Gavin Jones confessed to killing Tibbetts
Jones allegedly told Maki that Lowe ordered him and 24-year-old Dalton Hansen to kill Tibbetts after her abduction drew too much publicity
Law enforcement officials used the information to obtain a warrant to search the home days after they interviewed her in March 2019 but it had already been vacated by the man.
Lowe was never charged over the allegations.
Court records show Lowe was sentenced to three years behind bars for third-degree burglary and has previous arrests on drug charges.
Jones was released from jail a month ago and is currently in a rehabilitation facility after serving time for operating while intoxicated charges.
Neither Lowe, Jones nor Hansen have been charged with any crimes related to Tibbetts’ death.
Bahena Rivera was found guilty on May 28 of Tibbetts’ murder after a two-week trial during where prosecutors argued that he stalked and approached Tibbetts while she was out for an evening run in her hometown of Brooklyn.
They said he killed her after she threatened to call police before dumping her body in a cornfield.
Prosecutors said he partially confessed during a lengthy interrogation a month later and led investigators to her body.
Bahena Rivera was found guilty on May 28 of Tibbetts’ murder after a two-week trial during where prosecutors argued that he stalked and approached Tibbetts (pictured) while she was out for an evening run in her hometown of Brooklyn
Tibbetts’ partially naked and decomposing body was found dumped in this cornfield in 2018
Bahena Rivera, an undocumented Mexican immigrant, shocked the court during his trial when he testified that two masked men broke into his trailer and forced him to drive them around at gunpoint.
When they came upon Tibbetts, he claimed, one of them stabbed her to death and loaded her body in his car’s trunk before instructing him to dispose of it.
Maki said he came forward with Jones’ confession after hearing Bahena Rivera’s testimony.
The defense argued gthe witness testimony could have changed the guilty verdict.
Judge Joel Yates agreed to delay Bahena Rivera’s sentencing while he considers whether to order a new trial.
However, the judge denied the defense’s request to order prosecutors to turn over information about prior sex trafficking investigations in the area, saying that would be ‘nothing more than a fishing expedition.’
A daylong hearing on the defense’s request for a new trial is scheduled to take place on July 27.
The evidence against Cristhian Bahena Rivera: He admitted to following Mollie Tibbetts on a jog, had her blood in his trunk and led cops to her body
A jury found Cristhian Bahena Rivera, 26, guilty of Mollie Tibbetts’ murder on May 28 – nearly three years after she disappeared on a jog in July 2018 and was found stabbed to death in a field.
Over the course of Bahena Rivera’s week-and-a-half-long trial in Scott County, Iowa, the jury saw surveillance video of his Chevy driving near her as she ran through a neighborhood the day she vanished and heard that blood was found in the trunk of the car before he agreed to lead cops to her body.
Prosecutors said Bahena Rivera – an undocumented Mexican immigrant – admitted to investigators that he’d gotten out of his car to talk to Tibbetts when she threatened to call police.
He claimed he got angry at Tibbetts and ‘blacked out’ before waking up to find her bleeding in the trunk of his car – after which he buried her in the field.
During his testimony, Bahena Rivera stunned jurors by claiming two masked men had forced him to abduct Tibbetts’ at knifepoint, after ordering him to follow the student, before they put her in the trunk.
He said he never reported the ordeal to police because he was afraid they would learn he was in the US illegally and deport him.
But prosecutors rubbished that excuse after the verdict, saying it was convenient that Bahena Rivera’s alleged aggressors were masked, and that he had been unable to pick out any identifying features.
Bahena Rivera’s own defense attorney Chad Fresne himself admitted his client’s version of events had been difficult to stand up.
He said: ‘It’s like trying to prove there’s not a Santa Claus. We don’t know who those persons could be. Remember our client was out in the middle of a very rural location. We tried to link it up as best we could with people who could have some kind of motive, but that’s very difficult to establish.’
The jury was shown photos of Tibbetts’ partially naked and decomposing body after it was dumped in the field, as well as images of her discarded black shorts and underwear.
The first image showed Tibbetts’ body covered by cornstalks with only her running shoes sticking out and visible.
Photographs also showed her body after the stalks had been removed: Her legs were spread apart and she was wearing only socks and a sports bra.
Crime scene photos of a pair of black shorts, underwear and what appeared to be a headband, which were found farther into the cornfield, were also shown to the court.
The images were shown as Amy Johnson, a criminalist with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation who examined the scene, testified as a prosecution witness.
An autopsy found that Tibbetts had been stabbed seven to ten times in the chest, ribs, neck and skull.
Bahena Rivera’s defense asserted that investigators used those gruesome photos and other evidence to draw a false confession out of him.
‘They started to confront him with the evidence. They confronted him with this videotape. They confronted him with these pictures,’ Fresne said.
‘And they said, ‘you know, we don’t believe you. We don’t believe that you weren’t there.’
‘And the confrontation continues until it was put in my client’s head — ‘perhaps you blacked out.’ The state — in this case — they got what they wanted. And they closed the case. They got what they needed.
‘There was an intense amount of pressure, that’s what the evidence has shown you, to close this case, to arrest someone for this vicious crime.
‘And instead of continuing to work the case — instead of continuing to work the evidence — they just submitted it to you.’
Former Iowa City police officer Pamela Romero testified that she noticed he had fallen asleep when she went to get him food. Romero recalled Bahena Rivera saying that he was sleepy but she said he remained alert and engaged during the questioning