A man faces life behind bars after being found guilty of murdering a student who was out jogging and dumping her body.
Cristhian Rivera has been convicted of murdering jogger Mollie Tibbets and stabbing her to death.
Prosecutors say he attacked the jogger with a “sharp object”, believed to be a knife, but the weapon has not yet been discovered.
The jury reached a decision after deliberating for seven hours, 16 minutes, and 15 seconds.
Rivera, 26, stayed silent and showed little emotion as he was told that he had been found guilty – which carries a mandatory sentence of life behind bars.
When questioned in a cornfield, he allegedly told police he followed Tibbetts in his car and got out and began running behind her.
He said that Mollie Tibbetts “tried to slap him and was screaming at him,” a cop testified in court.
He also reportedly said she noticed him and tried to use her cell phone to call the police.
“He said that Mollie tried to slap him and was screaming at him,” Romero testified.
“Mr Rivera said this is when he became angry.”
According to an arrest affidavit, he said he got angry and “blacked out” and when he came to, he realised she was bleeding in his trunk and buried her in a field.
A forensics expert testified in the trial that blood found in his Chevy Malibu trunk “was a first match” for the student.
Tara Scott, a criminalist in the DNA section of Iowa’s crime lab, said she analyzed a swab taken from a bloodstain found on the trunk seal after investigators recovered Tibbetts’ body.
“The profile I had from Mollie Tibbetts and the profile from that blood matched,” Scott testified.
“They were exactly the same.”
Rivera, 26, was charged with first-degree murder in relation to Tibbetts’ death and pleaded not guilty ahead of the trial.
The 20-year-old student vanished while out running on July 18, 2018, in Brooklyn, Iowa.
Rivera was identified as a suspect weeks later after surveillance footage revealed a dark Chevy Malibu appearing to circle her as she ran.
Detectives found her partially naked in a cornfield a month later, and her body was already decomposing.
During the interrogation, Rivera led police to the spot where she was found and said: “I brought you here, didn’t I? So that means that I did it.”
His defense team say Rivera claims two masked men were responsible for Mollie’s death and disappearance.
During his testimony, he said the mystery men kidnapped him, forced him to participate in their plot to kill the student, and threatened his family to remain silent, writes CNN.
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Jennifer Frese, who said she will be appealing the guilty verdict, said she did not coach the defendant in his claims.
“We would have come up with something better than that,” she said.
His defense also claim that his original statements were made under duress during an 11-hour police interrogation.
One of the County Attorneys in the case against the suspect, Bart Klaver said the guilty verdict served justice to Molly’s family.
The outcome was a “weight off of everyone’s shoulders,” he said.
The sentence for first-degree murder varies state by state in the US.
In Iowa, the penalty for first-degree murder – a class A felony – is life in prison without the possibility of parole.
When told of the guilty verdict, ABC news report he nodded his head slightly.
Rivera will begin his sentencing on july 15.