As hundreds squeezed in a high school gymnasium to pay their respects and mourn 20-year-old Mollie Tibbetts, her father told them it is time to “turn the page” and that his daughter “is nobody’s victim.”
At a memorial for his daughter on Sunday afternoon, Rob Tibbetts gave a moving eulogy to the crowd of more than 1,200 that gathered at the Brooklyn-Guernsey-Malcom High School, the same school Mollie had graduated from only a year earlier.
“Today, we need to turn the page. We’re at the end of a long ordeal,” Rob Tibbetts said to the Des Moines Register. “But we need to turn toward life — Mollie’s life — because Mollie’s nobody’s victim. Mollie’s my hero.”
Mollie Tibbetts’ two brothers and cousins served as pallbearers. Along with her father, She was eulogized by her cousin Morgan Collum and her former high school teacher, JR Glenn.
Rob Tibbetts said the community and his family need to heal, and the only way to do it is by taking baby steps. He went on to thank volunteers and defend the Latino community while adding he was “grateful” for them, according to ABC News.
The grieving father’s words came after members of the family criticized several politicians, including President Donald Trump, for using Mollie’s death as a talking point in ongoing debates about immigration in America. The suspect arrested in connection with her killing is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico.
“The Hispanic community are Iowans. They have the same values as Iowans,” he said, including an emphasis on family. “As far as I’m concerned, they’re Iowans with better food.”
To break the somber atmosphere in the school’s gym, Rob Tibbetts asked a young couple to join him at the front. The two had gotten married just the day before. The crowd broke into applause.
“That felt good. That’s what Mollie would have done,” he said. “Let’s try one more. Let’s hear it for the Bears football team — for their first win.” Mollie’s younger brother, Scott, the starting quarterback, had helped lead the team to victory.
Mollie’s disappearance on July 18 and the subsequent efforts to find her captured headlines across the country for five weeks, until her body was found 500 yards inside of a cornfield about 10 to 12 miles south from where police think she was abducted. Cristhian Rivera, 24, has been charged with first-degree murder in her death — which preliminary autopsy results show was caused by multiple sharp force injuries.
“You want to know why there’s been such an outpouring?” Rob Tibbetts said as per the Des Moines Register report. “It’s because we see ourselves in Mollie.”