Mollie Tibbetts' Family Members Speak Out Against Trump's Politicization of Her Death
When authorities charged an undocumented man with Mollie Tibbetts' murder, the Trump administration used it as an opportunity to push its anti-immigrant agenda.
Iowa Department of Criminal Investigations
Mollie Tibbetts' family is speaking out against the Trump administration for using the immigration status of the man charged with her murder as an opportunity to tout its anti-immigrant agenda.
Tibbetts' aunt Billie Jo Calderwood decried the politicization of her niece's murder in a Tuesday Facebook post, reported on by a local MSNBC affiliate, writing, "Please remember, evil comes in EVERY color. 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." She continued: "From the bottom of our hearts, thank you."
Calderwood went on to share a post from a woman named Kasie Schultz Taylor, who made a similar plea that Tibbett's death not be used as a means to promote "racism and hate."
The same day, Tibbett's cousin, Sam Lucas, went to bat on Twitter with conservative commentator Candace Owens, who lamented that there would be "ZERO outrage from Democrats and the spineless celebrities who march to their orders" over Tibbett's murder by an "illegal immigrant."
"Hey, I am a member of Mollie's family we are not so fucking small minded that we generalize a whole population based on some bad individuals," Lucas wrote. "Stop being a fucking snake and using my cousin's death as political propaganda."
Lucas told the Washington Post she wanted to protect her family from the "extra grief of politics." Tibbetts' immediate family members haven't weighed in on the conservative response to Tibbett's death, but released a statement on Wednesday asking that the public respect their wishes to grieve privately:
On behalf of Mollie's entire family, we thank all of those from around the world who have sent their thoughts and prayers for our girl. We know that many of you will join us as we continue to carry Mollie in our hearts forever.
At this time, our family asks that we be allowed the time to process our devastating loss and share our grief in private.
Again, thank you for the outpouring of love and support that has been shared in Mollie's name. We remain forever grateful.
No additional press conferences are scheduled at this time.
Earlier this week, authorities arrested a man named Cristhian Bahena Rivera for Tibbetts' murder, after she was missing for over a month in Iowa. At the time of his arrest, Iowa law enforcement identified Rivera as a 24-year-old undocumented immigrant from Mexico, who officials said had been working on a local farm illegally.
US Citizenship and Immigration Services has been unable to corroborate Richards' assertion that Rivera is in the country legally, telling BuzzFeed News that there's "no record in our systems indicating he has any lawful immigration status.”
The Trump administration seized on the development, arguing that Tibbetts had been "permanently separated" from her family at the hands of an undocumented immigrant.
"For 34 days, investigators searched for 20-year-old Mollie Tibbetts," the White House tweeted on Wednesday. "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."
President Donald Trump tweeted out a video of himself calling for stricter immigration laws and border security he suggested would have prevented Tibbetts' murder—"one of many," he said.
"A person came in from Mexico, illegally, and killed her," Trump says, standing in front of the White House. "We need the wall; we need our immigration laws changed; we need our border laws changed; we need Republicans to do it because the Democrats aren't going to do it."
On Wednesday, Rivera's lawyer, Allen Richards, filed court documents arguing that his client has the proper documentation to live and work in the United States legally, and requested a gag order against the Trump administration for continuing to portray him as an "illegal alien."
"Sad and sorry Trump has weighed in on this matter in national media which will poison the entire possible pool of jury members," Richards wrote.
Rivera is currently being held on a $5 million cash bond, and faces charges of first-degree murder with the potential for a life sentence.
He did happen to be a person who was here without documentation," Lucas told the Post, "but that has nothing to do with the fact that this man is a demon and an evil man who took the life of Mollie."