The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

An Iowa college student went for a jog last week — and hasn’t been seen since

Authorities charged Cristhian Bahena Rivera, 24, with first-degree murder in the death of Iowa college student Mollie Tibbetts. (Video: Allie Caren, Patrick Martin, Richard Swearinger/The Washington Post)

Mollie Tibbets put on shorts and a black sports bra, laced up her running shoes and headed out for a jog Wednesday, just as she did almost every evening, a neighbor told authorities.

Then she disappeared.

The University of Iowa student’s last known communication was a Snapchat message she sent to her boyfriend, Dalton Jack, for whom she was house sitting, the Des Moines Register reported. Jack, who was out of town, looked at it, but didn’t immediately reply.

His “good morning” text the next day received no answer. And Tibbetts didn’t pick up when someone at the day-care center where she worked called to figure out why she didn’t show up. Every call went straight to voice mail.

For nearly a week, dozens of volunteers in the small Iowa town of Brooklyn, population nearly 1,500, have been combing ditches, cornfields and empty buildings for any sign of the 20-year-old.

“Please ask anyone and everyone if they have seen Mollie and show her photo,” a post on the Finding Mollie Tibbetts Facebook page said. “Canvass the state and outside of Iowa if possible. Go to gas stations, rest areas, truck stops, restaurants, and other high traffic areas.”

Despite the effort, searchers have found no trace of the woman or clues about what may have happened to her.

On Wednesday, the Associated Press reported, the FBI and state investigators had taken over the search.

A woman disappeared after a Tinder date. Then her body was found.

“It’s frustrating. It’s powerless. We’re racking our brains, thinking what can we think of to tell the investigators,” Kim Calderwood, Tibbetts’s aunt, told the Des Moines Register. “It’s the worst thing — to want to fix something you can’t fix.”

Mollie’s brother, Jake Tibbetts, told the newspaper the family went “through stages of scared and sad. And now we’re anxious and confused.”

“Mollie has the biggest heart of anyone we ever knew,” he said. “She was never shy. … She had room in her heart for everyone.”

The University of Iowa said in a statement Wednesday that, “our thoughts continue to be with Mollie Tibbetts’ family and friends.”

Federal investigators hope digital clues provide some insight. The FBI is studying Tibbetts’s online history and combing through her cellphone apps to determine what might have happened to her. She ran with her Fitbit on her wrist, and with her cellphone connected to wireless headphones.

Jack told the Register he can’t remember details from the last Snapchat he received from Tibbetts. From the photo, he said, it looks like she is inside a house, but he doesn’t remember what the caption says.

Tibbetts was born in San Francisco, but moved to Brooklyn in second grade with her mother. She’d won state speech competitions and was involved in theater and ran cross-country. She was studying psychology, as her mother did.

As they searched, those closest to Tibbetts asked everyone to hold on to hope — and keep sharing information about herself.

“We remain in awe and indebted to the help, creativity, outreach and love that you have shown Mollie and all of us,” Sandi Tibbetts Murphy wrote on the wall of the Finding Mollie Tibbetts Facebook page. “Please keep sharing Mollie’s information so we can bring our girl safely home.”

Total Choice Printing has posters in the entryway of the store on a table for pick up this weekend. Please let me know if I can print more and how many.

Posted by Alicia Blankenfeld on Saturday, July 21, 2018

Correction: An earlier version of this story reported that Mollie Tibbetts disappeared on July 19, Thursday. It has been corrected.

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