Public Safety

Disappearance of University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts remains a mystery

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Five days after University of Iowa rising sophomore Mollie Tibbetts disappeared from the Brooklyn, Iowa, home she was housesitting, searches for her ended and her mother said she has “no idea what happened to her.”

In the days leading up to her daughter’s disappearance, Laura Calderwood said everything appeared normal — there was nothing unusual and Tibbetts was her typical “full-of-life” self.

“It’s impossible for me to imagine,” she said. “I can’t even begin to speculate about what might have happened. It’s very difficult, and right now we’re just playing the waiting game and waiting to see what the police find out.”

Tibbetts, 20, disappeared from Brooklyn sometime last Wednesday night. In the days since, Brooklyn authorities, emergency responders and community members have conducted several searches of the area, mainly focusing on the fields between her family’s home and her boyfriend’s place, where she was housesitting.

Her boyfriend Monday told a television station that he last saw her July 16. The next day, he went to Dubuque for his job at a construction company, and she came to take care of his dogs.

The searches were called off Monday, according to local news outlets, and Calderwood said the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation and the FBI are expected to join the investigation.

The day her daughter disappeared, Calderwood said Tibbetts had gone to work as usual at the Grinnell Regional Medical Center day care. After work, she went to her boyfriend’s house.

At some point, Calderwood said Tibbetts left her boyfriend’s house and went for a run.

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“She is an avid runner,” Calderwood said, adding her daughter did not have a specific route. “She liked to mix it up.”

Calderwood said she had exchanged several text messages with her daughter that afternoon.

“She had sent me a shopping list for a dessert she wanted to make and take to work,” she said. “I texted her that I got the ingredients and asked if she was coming home for dinner.”

According to Calderwood, Tibbetts said she would be home and asked what they were having. “Brats,” she replied. “Ok,” Tibbetts responded.

But dinner came and went, Calderwood said, and Tibbetts didn’t come home.

The last known contact her daughter had with anyone was about 10 p.m. Wednesday, Calderwood said, when she exchanged Snapchat messages with her boyfriend.

The next morning, Calderwood said her son, Tibbetts’ brother, texted his sister at 7:30 a.m. to see if she needed a ride home. She never responded.

Throughout that day, Calderwood said she also sent text messages to her daughter, but all went unanswered.

At first, Calderwood thought he daughter was busy with work or something else. But Thursday afternoon, Calderwood said she got a call from her son saying Tibbetts didn’t show up for work.

“That’s when the adrenaline rushed through my body,” she said.

Calderwood said she immediately contacted local authorities and reported her daughter missing. Within an hour, they had opened an investigation.

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“It is not at all like her to run off or disappear,” Calderwood said. “This is completely out of character for her.”

Calderwood said her daughter lived on the UI campus during her freshman year and embraced her new life as a college student studying psychology.

“She’s very intelligent and she loved college and really enjoyed studying,” she said,

Calderwood described her daughter as having a big personality — always happy and smiling.

“She loves life and lives it to the fullest,” she said. “She is very happy and social, she loved to sing and perform and she loves caring for the kids at the day care where she works.”

With no answers yet as to where her daughter could be, Calderwood said all she and her family can do is wait and hope for the best.

“I just hope we find her safe and well,” she said. “We just want her to come home”

Tibbetts is described as 5-foot-2, about 120 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes. Anyone with information about Mollie Tibbetts or her whereabouts is asked to call the Poweshiek Sheriff’s Office at (641) 623-5679.

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

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