This past Sunday, the gymnasium of Brooklyn-Guernsey-Malcom High School gathered 1,200 people to honor 20-year-old Mollie Tibbetts, who was found dead after an intense month-long search.
Mollie’s father, Rob Tibbetts, delivered an emotional eulogy for his daughter, who he described as a “bright, shining light” who affected others with her “infectious joy and smiling.”
“Today, we need to turn the page,” he said. “We’re at the end of a long ordeal. But we need to turn toward life—Mollie’s life—because Mollie’s nobody’s victim. Mollie’s my hero.”
Mollie’s family asked that people not be angry with God for her death, and instead to follow her example of living a positive life.
Morgan Collum, Tibbetts’ cousin, said that Mollie always tried to find the good in every person she met.
“Please, don’t be mad at God for taking Mollie away from us,” Collum told those in attendance. “Rather, praise God for His perfect creation in making a soul so sweet, so pure and so caring to all.”
Cristhian Bahena Rivera, an immigrant from Mexico, was charged last week with first-degree murder after leading police to her body. He claims he does not remember how he killed the 20-year-old Iowa student, but that he dragged her to a cornfield and covered her body with corn stalks.
Mollie’s death has sparked a lot of controversy and criticism around the U.S. immigration system, but her father asked that people remember his daughter by “celebrating” her, rather than focusing on her death.
Rob Tibbetts shared in his eulogy that the local Hispanic community has done nothing but support and embrace him and his family during the search for his daughter.
“The Hispanic community are Iowans. They have the same values as Iowans,” he shared. “As far as I’m concerned, they’re Iowans with better food.”
The priest at the funeral called on the community to forgive Rivera of the murder.
“We need to pray for a spirit of forgiveness for the one who did this,” he said at a prayer vigil. “Faith teaches us that Christ came to forgive. We’re all in need of forgiveness. We’re all sinners. None of us are exempt.”