Attorney for Mollie Tibbetts' suspected killer Cristhian Rivera fights back

The attorney of Mollie Tibbetts' suspected killer fought back Thursday night against investigators' statements that his client, Cristhian Rivera, is an illegal immigrant, calling it "rhetoric."

"That's your rhetoric on it," attorney Allan Richards told Fox News' Martha MacCallum on "The Story." Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said Wednesday that Rivera, 24, has been in the U.S. illegally, and lived in Iowa for four to seven years.


MacCallum argued that his immigration status is "just a fact," but Richards pushed back — continuing to refer to it as the anchor's "point of view."

"You want to jump to say they’re facts," Richards said. "Have these people been under oath? Have these people provided the opportunity to Cristhian to present his point of view on the matter?"

Cristhian Rivera, 24, was charged with first-degree murder on Tuesday in the death of Mollie Tibbetts.

Cristhian Rivera, 24, was charged with first-degree murder on Tuesday in the death of Mollie Tibbetts. (Iowa Department of Public Safety)

When questioned about the Iowa State Medical Examiner's preliminary autopsy results, which stated Tibbetts died of "sharp force injuries," Richards called it simply "a report" that he needed to review before commenting on it.


"As far as the death, I'm real sorry about the death," Richards told Fox News. "I'm not going to make any comment on a report until somebody testifies to, in more detail, concerning the matter."

In addition to speaking to Richards, Fox News on Thursday interviewed the aunt of Iris Monarrez — Rivera's ex-girlfriend and the mother of his daughter, who went to high school with Tibbetts.

The aunt said that Rivera — whom she described as a good father to his daughter — lived with Monarrez until about a year and a half ago, when the couple broke up. Monarrez has since moved out of the area.

"He was a good person. He was a jokester," the aunt said of Rivera, through a translator. "For us, he was a good and normal person. Not aggressive or violent, no. He was normal just like us."

Relatives, according to Monarrez's aunt, "can't believe" Rivera's alleged involvement, and said they were hoping "it's probably an error and we'll wake up from this nightmare."

In the weeks when Tibbetts was missing, Rivera didn't act differently, the aunt said. She added that when the family would get together, "we would talk about the situation," and Rivera "would comment as well and we would all say that we were surprised and scared because this is a quiet town."

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"This has never happened around here and we were all sad while awaiting, pleading to God that she would be found alive and that everything would be fine," she told Fox News. "He never displayed signs for us to suspect that he had anything to do with this."

The aunt said that if Rivera is guilty of the crimes of which he's accused, she just wants to know, "Why?"

"Why did you do this? You're a talented young man. You had a future ahead of you. Why? Why did it have to come to this? That's what I would ask him," the aunt said. She said the family was awaiting DNA results, which she hoped would clear Rivera's name.

Fox News' Martha MacCallum, Melissa Chrise and Tomas Vazquez contributed to this report.