A cousin of Mollie Tibbets, the 20-year-old Iowa college student whose murder garnered national attention, has pushed back on Republican lawmakers’ attempts to politicize her death after Cristhian Rivera, an undocumented 24-year-old Mexican immigrant, was arrested and charged with Tibbets’ murder.
“For 34 days, investigators searched for 20-year-old Mollie Tibbetts,” the White House official Twitter account posted last week. “Yesterday, an illegal alien, now charged with first-degree murder, led police to the cornfield where her body was found. The Tibbetts family has been permanently separated. They are not alone.” The tweet included a video of people whose family members had also been killed by undocumented immigrants.
U.S. authorities claim that Rivera provided fake employment documents to his job. In a recent court filing, per the Washington Post, Rivera’s lawyer claimed he was legally allowed to work in the U.S.
After Tibbetts’ body was found, President Trump told a West Virginia crowd, “You heard about today with the illegal alien coming in, very sadly, from Mexico and you saw what happened to that incredible, beautiful young woman. Should’ve never happened. Illegally in our country. We’ve had a huge impact, but the laws are so bad. The immigration laws are such a disgrace, we’re getting them changed, but we have to get more Republicans. We have to get ’em.”
“We are angry that a broken immigration system allowed a predator like this to live in our community, and we will do all we can to bring justice to Mollie’s killer,” Iowa’s Republican governor Kim Reynolds said in a statement.
Tibbetts’ cousin Sandi Tibbetts Murphy rejected their argument in a Facebook post, writing, “You do not get to usurp Mollie and her legacy for your racist, false narrative now that she is no longer with us. We hereby reclaim our Mollie.”
“Yes, [Rivera] is an immigrant to this country, with uncertainty as to his legal status. But it matters not,” Tibbetts Murphy added. “He could have been a citizen, born in this country; he could have been an older, white man from anywhere … He is a man who felt entitled to impose himself on Mollie’s life, without consequence … Mollie was murdered because a man denied her right to say no.”
In her statement, Tibbetts Murphy asked that the focus of her cousin’s murder center around “violence committed in our society, mostly by men” rather than emblematic of the bigger immigration debate currently surrounding the national discourse.
“It is not your right to exacerbate this grievous act by hijacking Mollie and all she believed with your racist fear-mongering,” Tibbetts Murphy wrote. “You do not get to use her murder to inaccurately promote your ‘permanently separated’ hyperbole. You do not have permission to callously use this tragedy to demonize an entire population for the acts of one man.”
Tibbetts was last seen going on a run on July 18th and her disappearance quickly became the focus of national attention. Her body was found in a cornfield 12 miles from her hometown of Brooklyn, Iowa, located 70 miles northeast of Des Moines.
Tibbetts Murphy isn’t the first family member to speak out against efforts to politicize Tibbetts’ murder. “Please remember, Evil comes in EVERY color,” Tibbetts’ aunt Billie Jo Calderwood wrote on Facebook. “Our family has been blessed to be surrounded by love, friendship and support throughout this entire ordeal by friends from all different nations and races.”
“I’m a member of Mollie’s family and we are not so fucking small-minded that we generalize a whole population based on some bad individuals,” Tibbetts’ cousin Samantha Lucas wrote to conservative pundit Candace Owens. “Now stop being a fucking snake and using my cousin’s death as political propaganda. Take her name out of your mouth.”
Tibbett’s father, Rob, praised the Hispanic community for helping in the search for his daughter, per Newsweek. “The Hispanic community are Iowans,” he said at his daughter’s funeral on Sunday. “They have the same values as Iowans. As far as I’m concerned, they’re Iowans with better food.”