The father of missing Iowa college student Mollie Tibbetts warned Tuesday that whoever she may be with should not “escalate this any further,” as the reward for information leading to her safe return has swelled to more than $270,000.
Tibbetts, a 20-year-old University of Iowa sophomore, was last seen jogging in the Brooklyn, Iowa area on July 18. The search for her – which is approaching the 3-week mark -- has drawn national attention and her father, Rob, believes somewhere out there, someone made a “horrible mistake.”
“You obviously don’t want to harm Mollie so just let her go and then deal with the consequences of what you’ve done so far, but don’t escalate this any further,” he told "FOX & Friends" when asked if he has a message for a possible abductor.
Police in the rural Iowa city have been tight-lipped about details surrounding the investigation into her disappearance, and they have not named any suspects.
But they did reveal last week that they were focusing on trying to understand who Mollie Tibbetts is.
"The timeline is very important, obviously, to us, but it's also been very important to us to get to know Mollie and understand what's normal for Mollie, what's not normal for Mollie," Kevin Winker, the Iowa Department of Public Safety’s director of investigative operations, said during a July 31 press conference.
Winker also said “understanding who was in the area of Brooklyn on the evening of July 18 is important."
“We don’t know where Mollie’s at right now. I’m not going to draw any conclusions about the circumstances of her disappearance other than it is not consistent with her past,” he added.
Rick Rahn, a special agent in charge at the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, told Fox News earlier in the investigation they had received "zero information" indicating Tibbetts was a runaway or had a medical reason for her disappearance.
Rob Tibbetts, though, is holding out hope that Mollie is still alive.
“I just think that because of the situation in Brooklyn, that everyone knows everyone, I just don’t think that anyone set out to harm Mollie,” he said Tuesday. “And the longer we go without finding her, the more optimistic we are that she is with someone that doesn’t want to harm her but doesn’t know how to extricate themselves from this situation.”