Public Safety

Search for Mollie Tibbetts now in its ninth day

Investigators say no suspects have been identified

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Now in its ninth day, the search for Mollie Tibbetts, the 20-year-old University of Iowa student who went missing from Brooklyn, Iowa on July 18, continues, but investigators say they have nothing for public release.

Special Agent in Charge, Rick Rahn of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, said investigators are continuing to comb through the data recently from Tibbetts’ social media accounts and mobile devices, as well as conduct interviews and searches, but no suspects have been identified.

“We are running down all information that is pertinent, or that we feel could lead to us where Mollie is or tell us what happened to her,” he said.

Tibbetts’ disappearance has fueled rampant speculation and rumors online, with social media users and self-proclaimed “web sleuths” posting theories, narratives and potentially inaccurate information and statistics.

Rahn said recent social media posts have focused on the number of people, especially juveniles, that have been reported missing in recent days, weeks, and months.

Screen shots of the Missing Person Information Clearinghouse’s missing-persons database have circulated on Twitter and Facebook, and in some cases appeared in local news reports.

“There’s been a sort of frenzied explosion of interest in the missing person numbers,” Rahn said, “and we’re seeing some concern from the public over the number of juveniles reported missing in recent weeks.”

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A quick scan of the missing persons listed in the information clearinghouse database, shows as many as 64 people were reported missing in Iowa since July 1, 2018. Of those, 45 are juveniles — including one infant — and 29 are adults.

In fiscal year 2017, there were 4,311 juveniles reported missing to The Missing Person Information Clearinghouse, according to DPS. This is an average of approximately 12 juveniles a day.

Those may seem like a big numbers, Rahn said, but the numbers can easily be taken out of context or interpreted incorrectly.

“A number of those are runaway cases, and a vast majority are found or returned home within 24 hours,” he said. “We have not seen anything unusual or any spike in the number of juveniles reported missing in recent weeks. The number ... has been consistent with what we’ve seen in past years.”

Meanwhile, investigators continue to scour Brooklyn and the surrounding areas, searching for anything that could lead to Tibbetts.

Early Thursday morning agents searched two hog farms in the Guernsey area, and then returned later that evening and searched them again.

Rahn said the farms were searched “because information was obtained that we felt warranted searches of those properties.”

Mitch Mortvedt, assistant director of field operations for the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, characterized the first search as “fruitless.” Rhan did not comment as to whether anything probative was found during the second search, but characterized the process as routine.

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“When we take leads, we gather that information and if it warrants a search of some kind, whether it be by manpower on the ground, by air or using K-9s, that’s what we’re going to do,” he said.

“We are running down all information that is pertinent or that we feel could lead to us where Mollie is or tell us what happened to her,” he added. “First and foremost, we want to find her. We haven’t lost hope that she is alive and we’re hoping to locate her soon.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8238; kat.russell@thegazette.com

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