The purported ‘real killer’ of 20-year-old Mollie Tibbetts has been pictured for the first time along with the alleged accomplice who ‘kidnapped’ her, as a judge is set to rule on the defense’s request for a new trial that could potentially exonerate the college student’s convicted murderer.
Sentencing for Cristhian Bahena Rivera, 27, was delayed on Wednesday after defense attorneys presented two potential new suspects – and witnesses – in the 2018 murder case that they believe will clear their client.
In a court hearing in Iowa Thursday, lawyers argued that a 21-year-old man, now identified as Gavin Jones, had allegedly confessed to fellow inmate Arne Maki that he and another man had killed Tibbetts after she was kidnapped and taken to a house used for sex trafficking.
The hearing was to determine whether prosecutors should be ordered to turn over information to Bahena Rivera’s lawyers on sex trafficking investigations in the region where Tibbetts was killed.
On Friday Judge Joel Yates denied the motion, saying the request was ‘overly broad’, the Des Moines Register reported.
Yates also noted that the defense’s motion for a new trial was ‘not an opportunity for the Defendant to investigate third parties unassociated with this case.’
Defense attorneys say prisoner Arne Maki (right) told investigators that a 21-year-old fellow inmate, Gavin Jones (left) who has a history of violence against women, claimed responsibility for killing Mollie Tibbetts when they were serving time together in county jail
Jones allegedly confessed that he and another man had killed Tibbetts after she was kidnapped and taken to a house used for sex trafficking owned by ‘accused sex trafficker’ James Manuel Lowe (pictured) 50
Mollie Tibbetts was found dead weeks after she vanished while out for a run in her hometown of Brooklyn, Iowa, in July 2018
A daylong hearing on the defense’s request for a new trial is scheduled to take place on July 27.
Lawyers said Maki, one of two new witnesses for the defense, claimed Jones told him Tibbetts was being held in a ‘trap house’ was owned by 50-year-old man, now identified as James Manuel Lowe.
He claimed Lowe was allegedly running a sex trafficking ring in the area and decided to have Tibbetts killed after the publicity surrounding her disappearance got too big.
Jones allegedly said he and an associate then followed through with Lowe’s plan to stab the Iowa college student and frame a Hispanic man for the death, according to court filings.
Bahena Rivera’s defense team also presented claims by a second witness, who said Jones allegedly admitted to ‘raping and killing’ Tibbetts during a conversation in April.
The defense argued the new allegations could also potentially link Lowe, who is currently behind bars on firearm charges, to the disappearance of an 11-year-old boy who went missing in the area during Bahena Rivera’s trial.
Court records show Lowe was sentenced to three years behind bars for third-degree burglary and has previous arrests on drug charges.
Jones was released from jail a month ago and is currently in a rehabilitation facility after serving time for operating while intoxicated charges.
Neither Lowe nor Jones have been charged with any crimes related to Tibbett’s death.
Bahena Rivera, an undocumented Mexican immigrant, was found guilty in May of murdering Tibbetts, who vanished while out for a run in her hometown of Brooklyn, Iowa, in July 2018.
Prosecutors said Bahena Rivera drove past Tibbetts while she was jogging and that he thought she was attractive, approached her, and killed her after she threatened to call police.
Sentencing for Cristhian Bahena Rivera was delayed on Wednesday after defense attorneys presented two potential new suspects and witnesses in the 2018 murder case that they believe will clear their client
Defense attorneys said Jones’s ex-girlfriend, which DailyMail.com can reveal is Lyndsey Marie Voss (right) also came forward after the trial claiming her ex had admitted to killing Tibbetts
Voss told investigators she had been in a car with Jones when he allegedly pointed a gun to her head and confessed. Documents obtained by DailyMail.com show Voss was later granted a restraining order against Jones on June 11.
They said he partially confessed during a lengthy interrogation a month later and led investigators to the cornfield where her body was found.
During his trial, Bahena Rivera claimed publicly for the first time that two masked men kidnapped him from his trailer and forced him to drive before they came upon Tibbetts on a rural road and one of them stabbed her.
He said the men loaded her body into his trunk and instructed him to dispose of it in the cornfield.
Defense lawyers Chad and Jennifer Frese requested a new trial last week and demanded prosecutors release information about other suspects, saying Maki and another witness had come forward independently of one another to partially support Bahena Rivera’s testimony.
Both said with a history of violence against women had claimed responsibility for killing Tibbetts.
Maki, 45, who is currently serving time in the Iowa Department of Corrections for domestic abuse, is said to have approached prison officials on May 26 with information about Jones after watching Bahena Rivera’s trial on television.
He told investigators Jones had confided in him about the killing while the two were serving time together at the Keokuk County Jail.
Jones, identified as ‘Inmate 2’ in court filings, allegedly told Maki that he and another individual were staying in a ‘trap house’ owned by a 50-year-old male ‘involved in the sex trafficking trade.’
He ‘then stated that on one occasion he went to a second “trap house” owned by the male,’ the filing states.
‘Inmate 2 then advised inmate [Maki] that at the second trap house he and the second individual saw Mollie Tibbetts bound and gagged.’
‘He indicated that the 50-year-old male devised a plan for them to stab Mollie Tibbetts and dump her body near a Hispanic male in order to make it appear that the Hispanic male committed the crime,’ the court papers say.
Defense attorneys said Jones’s ex-girlfriend, which DailyMail.com can reveal is Lyndsey Marie Voss, also came forward hours later claiming her ex had admitted to killing Tibbetts a month earlier.
Voss told investigators she had been in a car with Jones when he allegedly pointed a gun to her head and said: ‘that Mexican shouldn’t be in jail for killing Mollie Tibbetts because I raped her and killed her.’
Documents obtained by DailyMail.com show Voss was later granted a restraining order against Jones on June 11.
Defense lawyers went on to argue that the information from the witnesses could also support a link between Tibbetts’s death and a missing 11-year-old boy from the area, Xavior Harrelson.
They also claimed Lowe could be linked to the disappearance of Xavior, who vanished from his trailer park on May 28 during closing arguments of the Bahena Rivera trial.
Bahena Rivera, a dairy farm worker, claimed in his testimony that two masked men were responsible for the killing and had forced him to drive them around and dispose of Tibbetts’ body at gunpoint. Tibbetts’ partially naked and decomposing body was found dumped in this cornfield in 2018
Prosecutors told jurors that an autopsy found that she had been stabbed seven to 12 times in the chest, ribs, neck, and skull, and that she died from sharp force injuries
The defense noted Lowe was previously accused of running a sex trafficking ring out of a home and kidnapping a woman he met in Tibbetts’s hometown in May 2018.
The Freses said they learned Tuesday about a criminal investigation that centered on Lowe, who allegedly met one of his sex trafficking victims in May 2018 at a gas station in Brooklyn, Tibbetts’s hometown of 1,700 people that is roughly 50 miles west of Iowa City.
Defense said the information from the witnesses could support a link between Tibbetts’ death and the May disappearance of 11-year-old Xavior Harrelson
The woman told investigators that the man lured her to a house in the nearby town of New Sharon, where she was repeatedly drugged, raped, and held against her will until August 2018, court records show.
The woman said she sometimes would hear other women’s voices in the home.
Law enforcement officials used the information to obtain a warrant to search the home days after they interviewed her in March 2019 but it had already been vacated by the man.
Chad Frese said prosecutors should have disclosed information related to those allegations, which were investigated in 2019 but did not result in charges.
He said it was odd that such a small, rural area has had so many reported abductions.
‘There’s something rotten within this area and they don’t want to provide us any information,’ he said.
Lowe was never charged over the allegations and Mahaska County’s sheriff said recently the kidnapping and sex trafficking allegations were never substantiated.
Assistant Attorney General Scott Brown on Thursday resisted the defense’s request for that information, calling it a ‘fishing expedition.’
He said the two witnesses’ accounts were inconsistent with Bahena Rivera’s own courtroom testimony because he made no mention of Tibbetts being held at a secondary location, her body being wrapped in plastic or other details.
‘No evidence supports it. None. Zero,’ Brown said.
The prosecutor said it was ‘unconscionable’ that defense lawyers publicly revealed information about the ongoing investigation into the boy’s disappearance and that it was not connected to Tibbetts’ death.