What Mollie Tibbetts' Family Really Thinks About The Politicization Of Her Murder

The 2018 killing of 20-year-old University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts, a crime for which an undocumented Mexican immigrant named Cristhian Bahena Rivera was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, came in the midst of divisive and heated political rhetoric over illegal immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border, as the Des Moines Register explains. Because of this, some members of the Republican Party, led at the time by then-President Donald Trump, chose to leverage the Tibbetts case for political capital, both at the state and the federal level.

In doing so, those politicians seemed intent to further their tough-on-immigration agenda, which at that point included building a wall to purportedly stop the flow of immigration between the two countries, as was a central tenet in the Trump administration's platform, based on reporting from US News & World Report. In the aftermath of Tibbetts' killing, and the subsequent conviction of an undocumented Mexican national — who later appealed his sentence, per Des Moines news outlet, KCCI — the young student's family spoke out to the press about the politics surrounding her death.

Iowa Republicans and 2 members of the Trump family referenced Tibbets' killing

At the time that Mollie Tibbets was stabbed to death and left in a cornfield near her home in Brooklyn, Iowa, the state had a Republican governor, Kim Reynolds, and two Republican senators. All three spoke out regarding the tragedy. In a statement the governor made at the time, she referenced the murder. In it, she also mentioned how "a broken immigration system allowed a predator like this to live in our community," per the official website of the Iowa governor's office. Similar comments were also made by Iowa's two GOP senators.

Referring to the pushback she received regarding that statement, Reynolds said it wasn't about politicizing the issue but about policy, as the Des Moines Register goes on to report. At that point, President Donald Trump's son, Donald Trump Jr. also wrote a column in the Des Moines Register referring to Tibbetts and hard-line immigration reform. For his part, then-President Trump mentioned the murder and Rivera's conviction at his rallies, as TIME explains, and the official White House Twitter account issued a tweet about it, per Vox

Mollie Tibbetts' father opposed the politicization of his daughter's death

Another column Mollie Tibbetts' father, Rob Tibbetts, wrote was published by The Des Moines Register. In it, he spoke out against politicians using his daughter's murder to advocate for what were racist policies in his view — policies that Tibbetts herself disagreed with, according to her father. As news spread about Mollie's killing, the Tibbetts family was also contacted by white supremacist organizations, Tibbetts wrote. Rob Tibbetts otherwise made no claim on one side or the other in the immigration issue, and although he encouraged debate on the topic, his only request was that Mollie's murder not be mentioned in the discussion. His complete column can be read on The Des Moines Register website.

Otherwise, Tibbetts wanted his daughter to die with dignity, and for his family to be allowed to grieve in private. Tibbetts also expressed regret that the Iowa Latino community had experienced harassment and discrimination after his daughter's death. To the immigrant population in the area, Tibbetts wrote (via The Des Moines Register) "My family stands with you." The murder of Mollie Tibbetts is covered in detail in the Peacock original series "Dateline: The Last Day." The episode trailer is posted on YouTube.