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Tama attorney Richards was thrust into spotlight in murder client defense

Attorneys from Tama County are still representing Tibbetts murder suspect

August 29, 2018
By John Speer - Editor ( , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

Tama attorney Allen Richards readily admits "It's my 15 minutes of fame" as he took on the defense of Cristhian Bahena Rivera, accused in the murder of Mollie Tibbetts. He has been before national TV in the case with TV interviews continuing Thursday night in front of the Tama County Courthouse in Toledo. Those interviews including CBS Good Morning America followed an earlier interview with FOX News, Richards told The Chronicle.

Although Ricahrds is no longer the attorney for Rivera, the defendant retains attorney representation from Tama County.

Chad and Jennifer Frese have taken over the defense of accused murderer Rivera from Richards. Court documents filed Sunday night, Aug. 26, and Monday, Aug. 27, show Rivera consenting to the withdrawl of Richards and the naming of the Freses as counsel.

Article Photos

A TV?camera rolls as Allen Richards is interviewed in front of the Tama County Courthouse in Toledo on Thursday evening, Aug. 23 for a segment on the defense of Cristhian Bahena Rivera.
Chronicle/John Speer

The Freses list a Montour home address. The couple practice law in seperate firms in Marshalltown.

Chad Frese served one term as Tama County Magistrate from 2005-09.

Rivera is accused of 1st degree murder in Poweshiek County in the death of Mollie Tibbetts. Authorties identify him as an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. According to law enforcement authrities, Rivera led them to Tibbetts body in a cornfield southeast of Brooklyn, Iowa, on Aug. 21.

Missing for nearly a month, the case of Tibbetts, a University of Iowa student, had become a high-profile case reported nationally.

President Trump commented at a West Virginia rally on Friday, Aug. 24, "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," Trump said at a West Virginia rally Tuesday night. "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.

Meanwhile, Richards, in comments broadcast on TV, had termed the President "the sad and sorry Trump" following Rivera's initial court appearance.

Family and friends of Mollie Tibbetts have called for her death to not become politicized on social media.

"Please do not compound the atrocity of what happened to her by adding racism and hate to the equation..Anyone that knew Mollie knows she wouldn't want that. Respect each other, support each other but most importantly BE KIND!" is the message attributed to Mollie's friend, Kasie Schultz Taylor.


The case of the missing University of Iowa student in nearby Brooklyn, Iowa, broke last Tuesday, Aug. 21, when the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation said Rivera, 24, led investigators to her body in a corn field southeast of Brooklyn early that morning.

Rivera was charged that day with first degree murder.

Tibbetts was reported missing on July 19 after she vanished from Brooklyn where she was dog-sitting her boyfriend's dog.

The case had grabbed national attention initially and even more so after Rivera was accused of being an illegal alien. He was first held on an immigration detainer according to new reports.

Enter Richards. He told The Chronicle he was sought by family members and friends of Rivera to locate him after he was taken into custody. Richards said he successfully found Rivera was being held Tuesday night in the Tama County Jail in Toledo. He said he had previously represented some of Rivera's acquaintances.

Richards said he had not yet seen the evidence in the case. An autopsy report released on Thursday said Tibbetts "died of multiple blunt force injuries."

Richards was retained for Rivera's defense and appeared with him in Magistrate Court in Brooklyn for arraignment on Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 22.

National TV, radio and print coverage of the court appearance resulted.

Richards had sought a closed hearing in court charging the case "had already become too politicized."

A preliminary hearing was set for Aug. 31 and Rivera was ordered held on $5 million bond.

Richard's told The Chronicle he expects a Trial Information will be filed by the prosecution and the preliminary hearing set for Aug. 31 will not be held. This is a customary practice in most cases. A preliminary hearing is conducted to determine if the charge filed warrants continuation of the case.

Richard's said he believes the case will go to trial and said Assistant Iowa Attorney General Laura roan is one of the prosecutors assigned to the case. Roan is a Toledo native and daughter of Jim and Mary Roan of Toledo.

News of Tibbetts death prompted comments from President Trump and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to comment during a press briefing, "Sadly, the individual believed to be responsible for the murder is an illegal immigrant, making this an unfortunate reminder of why we need to strengthen our immigration laws."

Richards is no stranger to criminal court serving as defense attorney for many accused.



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