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Judge denies latest motion by Bahena Rivera defense team

Cristhian Bahena Rivera, center, stands with his attorney Jennifer Frese, right, as he listens...
Cristhian Bahena Rivera, center, stands with his attorney Jennifer Frese, right, as he listens as the verdict is announced in his trial, Friday, May 28, 2021, at the Scott County Courthouse in Davenport, Iowa. A jury on Friday found Bahena Rivera guilty of first-degree murder in the stabbing death of Mollie Tibbetts, a University of Iowa student who vanished while out for a run in 2018. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, Pool)(Charlie Neibergall | AP)
Published: Jul. 16, 2021 at 5:14 PM CDT
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MONTEZUMA, Iowa (KCRG) - The judge in the Cristhian Bahena Rivera murder trial has denied a motion to release evidence related to new claims of who killed 20-year-old Mollie Tibbetts.

A hearing held on Thursday addressed new information the defense brought forward this week claiming Tibbetts’ case is somehow related to the disappearance of Xavior Harrelson.

Harrelson disappeared from Poweshiek County the second to last day of testimony during Bahena Rivera’s trial. The defense argues the timing of Xavior’s disappearance and the location are no coincidence. The defense claims a man in prison admitted to killing Tibbetts after she was held at a trap house in the area. A man who lived with Harrelson’s mom allegedly owned that trap house. Prosecutors argued the confession and conspiracy have no evidence and contradict Bahena Rivera’s own testimony on what happened to Tibbetts.

In Friday’s ruling, Judge Joel Yates says the defense’s first request regarding evidence related to sex trafficking investigations involving James Lowe or others was overly broad and would likely “contain confidential information about a variety of people, and Defendant’s examination of those investigations would be nothing more than a fishing expedition.”

The second request by the defense asked for evidence regarding any pending investigation of James Lowe from the time Mollie Tibbetts went missing to the present. Yates says “a motion for new trial is not an opportunity for the Defendant to investigate third parties unassociated with this case.”

The final request by the defense requested access to any pending investigations involving Gavin Jones because Jones’ alleged confession is “newly discovered evidence.”

Yates said in his ruling that “Further evidence regarding Jones would be a fishing expedition and unnecessary for this procedural mechanism.”

Yates has ordered the hearing on the motion for a new trial and motion in arrest of judgment to take place at 9 a.m. on July 27, in Poweshiek County.

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