More than 1,000 mourners filled a high school gymnasium in a small town in Iowa on Sunday to pay their respects to slain college student Mollie Tibbetts.
Her father, Rob Tibbetts, urged those gathered to focus on her life and not her death.
“We need to turn the page,” Rob Tibbetts said, according to the Des Moines Register. “We’re at the end of a long ordeal, but we need to turn toward life — Mollie’s life — because Mollie’s nobody’s victim. Mollie’s my hero.”
About 1,200 people reportedly attended the funeral service at BGM High School in Brooklyn, a rural town of about 1,400 people located some 70 miles from Des Moines, or watched it on a TV monitor in an overflow room. Tibbetts graduated from the school last year.
Tibbetts, 20, went missing on July 18, and her body found Aug. 21 in a Poweshiek County cornfield, police said. Her death was ruled a homicide last week. She died as a result of “multiple sharp force injuries,” according to the Iowa State Medical Examiner.
We’re at the end of a long ordeal, but we need to turn toward life — Mollie’s life — because Mollie’s nobody’s victim. Mollie’s my hero. Rob Tibbetts
In his eulogy, Rob Tibbetts thanked everyone who participated in the 32-day search for his daughter.
“You want to know why there’s been such an outpouring?” he asked. “It’s because we see ourselves in Mollie.”
According to her obituary, Tibbetts loved children. She was a sophomore majoring in psychology at the University of Iowa who wanted to become a child psychologist and work with children dealing with mental health issues.
“Mollie loved life,” her obituary reads. “Her passion for it radiated from those beautiful brown eyes and the smile that she was so quick to share with everyone she met. She excelled in writing and speech where she shared her thoughts on some very difficult and complex subjects, mental health and self-esteem … but what Mollie did best was making friends everywhere she went.”
Cristhian Rivera, 24, a Mexican national who authorities say has been in the U.S. for years without proper legal documentation, was charged with first-degree murder in Tibbetts’ slaying. He is jailed in lieu of a $5 million bond.
Speakers at Sunday’s funeral didn’t mention the charges. Tibbetts’ cousin Morgan Collum asked mourners to “do right” by Tibbetts and to share their strengths with others.
“Please don’t be mad at God,” Collum said. “Praise God for his perfect creation.”