The father of missing college student Mollie Tibbetts says the meeting he, his sons and Mollie's boyfriend had Wednesday with Vice President Pence was very “touching” and “genuine,” and Pence came across as “just another father that was just hurt and bewildered by Mollie’s story.”
Rob Tibbetts told Fox News the meeting, which lasted around 15 to 20 minutes at a National Guard station in Des Moines, happened after law enforcement partners called him and said Pence was in Iowa for an event and wanted to talk to him.
“He just expressed in a very private way his compassion. It was very genuine and it was real. It was very touching,” Tibbetts said about the meeting.
“I got the sense that it was not a politician at all, it was just another father that was just hurt and bewildered by Mollie’s story just like everybody else in America,” Tibbetts added.
Rob Tibbetts' 20-year-old daughter vanished on July 18 in the Brooklyn, Iowa area, sparking an investigation that's captured the nation’s interest.
Tibbetts told Fox News on Thursday he thinks “that ordinary quality of Mollie that people can identify with and that makes this story, this whole episode all the more frightening” is something that has struck a chord with the public -- and Pence.
Tibbetts also said Pence “pledged the full force of the federal government” to help in the case and has reached out to the FBI as well.
“All of that is very, very encouraging but we need the eyes and memories of people who were there at that time to remember what they saw, even if it was insignificant,” Tibbetts also said.
A website set up by law enforcement that went online Monday – which focuses on obtaining information from five locations in and around the rural city of Brooklyn – has already generated 200 new leads, Tibbetts said.
“One of the things we talked about [with] this story with the vice president was that regardless of your political opinions or your religion or race or preference or geography that you come from or your age, that this story has touched everyone and really unified and galvanized this country around a single purpose, and I think there’s a collective will to bring Mollie home,” he added.
The meeting ended in a prayer in which Pence, Rob Tibbetts, his two sons and Mollie’s boyfriend bowed their heads.
“The whole meeting was very touching, very genuine, very heart felt, very spiritual,” Tibbetts said.
The father also told Fox News he is planning to return home to California this weekend, a month after Tibbetts disappeared.
Law enforcement agencies have not named any suspects or persons of interest in the case and have been tight-lipped for weeks, paving the way for a few sensationalistic reports to emerge claiming to fill in the blanks as to what happened to Mollie.
RadarOnline published a story Tuesday citing what it describes as a source close to the FBI’s investigation stating that detectives believe Tibbetts’ abductor attended a vigil for her in the days after she vanished and that cops were closing in on potential suspects.
“I did talk to members of the law enforcement team subsequent to that and there was nothing to that story whatsoever,” Rob Tibbetts told Fox News about the report.
The next day, the same website reported that “field offices are deploying drones, using state-of-the-art satellite trucks and have set up several base camps in empty barns as they prepare to close in on the perpetrator.”
But Rob Tibbetts says he and the family, at this point, is “used to all kinds of sensational offers."
“Our phone rings all day with all kinds of silly and sometimes outrageous things which we pass onto law enforcement, it’s just part of the investigation,” he said.
Monique Lessan, a California-based private investigator who specializes in missing persons cases, told Fox News in an e-mail that there are several possible reasons why police are hesitant to release more information to the public about the investigation.
She says it's possible they may not know what happened to Mollie and if they lacked evidence it could cast them in a bad light, or they may have leads and possible suspects that need to be thoroughly vetted “before releasing that information with the news organizations, so it doesn't create additional chaos and confusion.
“There hasn't been any [known] demands for ransom, but perhaps if there were some communications for ransom, law enforcement may have been told to keep that hush hush,” she added.
“The idea is to not show your hand until the last card is dealt and all bids are in,” he said. “Otherwise, the criminal, who is well aware of the details of the act, could call their bluff and literally get away with murder. That, and have dozens of people confessing to the crime merely to see their names on national news.”
Lofland also said “the unsuspecting criminal, no matter how careful” will take material away from a crime scene, whether it’s “carpet fibers buried in the tread of a shoe, DNA transferred to the suspect from an item only found in the apartment belonging to the victim, a unique plant seed stuck to the gas pedal of the suspect’s car, and so on.”
He believes it’s “quite possible that police have in hand one of those -- a tiny bit of evidence that would or could place a kidnapper or an accomplice in one of the five or six areas police have identified as locations of interest in the case of Mollie Tibbetts’ disappearance.
“Keep in mind, though, there may be other areas they’re keeping to themselves in hopes the suspect will relax, thinking police are not closing in, when in reality the net is slowly and methodically tightening as clues are revealed,” he added.
Anyone with tips in relation to Mollie Tibbetts' disappearance is urged to visit findingmollie.iowa.gov. A reward for information about the case leading to her safe return has nearly hit $400,000.