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Judge delays sentencing for man in Iowa college student’s killing so defense can investigate claims implicating others

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Cristhian Rivera, Testimony begins for Mollie Tibbetts trial

MONTEZUMA, Iowa (KWWL) -- Cristhian Bahena Rivera's sentencing for the 2018 killing of Mollie Tibbetts will be delayed after the defense has requested a new hearing and the court will review more evidence.

Bahena Rivera was scheduled to be sentenced to life in prison on Thursday at 9:30 a.m. after being convicted of first-degree murder in May. Judge Joel Yates issued an order Wednesday saying the sentencing would be delayed until after he holds hearings on whether to grant the defense's requests to compel prosecutors to release information about other suspects and for a new trial.

Defense lawyers recently filed the motion, bringing forward evidence to support claims that Bahena Rivera was framed, saying an inmate admitted to killing Tibbetts. The documents identify a new witness, an inmate, who testified that another incarcerated individual ("Inmate 2") was part of a duo that killed Tibbetts under the orders of a "50-year-old male involved in the sex trafficking trade."

Bahena Rivera admitted to placing Tibbetts' body in a cornfield and covering it with stalks but testified that two masked men were to blame for her murder.

New documents, which the judge has sealed, identify that 50-year-old, (name redacted) and claim that he was operating a sex trafficking ring out of a residence in New Sharon in the summer of 2018. "Inmate 2" said he went to a “trap house” owned by that man, saw Tibbetts bound and gagged, and admitted to killing her.

In a Supplemental Motion for New Trial, the defense argues that the man owning the trap house is connected to at least 10 other missing children from Poweshiek County or nearby counties, most recently the disappearance of Xavior Harrelson. Bahena Rivera's attorneys claim the had a relationship with Xavior's mother, Sarah Harrelson, and they lived together for a period of time. They say that through an investigation, he may have been one of the last people to see Xavior.

The defense is claiming that the prosecution's failure to turn over reports involving trap houses and kidnappings is a due process violation.

KTIV will live stream the July 15 hearing on our Facebook page and website at 9:30 a.m.

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