A relative of Mollie Tibbetts, the Iowa college student whom authorities say was killed by an undocumented immigrant, said that commentators need to stop using her murder to push a “racist, false narrative” about immigration.
“No, no and no,” Sandi Tibbetts Murphy posted on Facebook Friday. “Especially for those of you who did not know her in life, you do not get to usurp Mollie and her legacy for your racist, false narrative now that she is no longer with us. We hereby reclaim our Mollie.”
Local news station KCCI identified Murphy as a cousin of Tibbetts.
The declaration follows the arrest of Cristhian Bahena Rivera, 24, who was charged this week in connection with Tibbetts's murder.
Law enforcement has identified him as an immigrant in the country illegally, but his lawyer has disputed that claim.
“Yes, that man is an immigrant to this country, with uncertainty as to his legal status. But it matters not,” Murphy wrote on Facebook.
Tibbetts's body was found last week after having been missing for more than a month.
She had disappeared while jogging in the town of Brooklyn, Iowa. Her cause of death in a preliminary report was listed as a "homicide resulting from multiple sharp force injuries," the Iowa State Medical Examiner told CNN.
Tibbetts's death has reignited the immigration debate, but Murphy wrote that the national discussion should revolve around violence against women.
Rivera reportedly told police that he approached Tibbetts while she was jogging and ran alongside her.
That’s when she grabbed her phone and threatened to call the police, The Des Moines Register reported from court documents.
"Rivera said he then panicked and got mad and that he then 'blocked' his 'memory,' which is what he does when he gets very upset," according to the document, which was written by a sheriff's deputy.
Murphy wrote that Rivera’s admission was about male entitlement.
“He is a man who felt entitled to impose himself on Mollie’s life, without consequence,” Murphy wrote. “He is a man who, because of his sense of male entitlement, refused to allow Mollie the right to reject his advances – the right to her own autonomy. Mollie was murdered because a man denied her right to say no.”
Several other members of Tibbetts’s family have appeared to push back on the immigration rhetoric surrounding the student’s death.
Samantha Lucas, Tibbetts's second cousin, said the slain student would not want her death to be used as “fuel against undocumented immigrants.”
Her father, Rob Tibbetts, thanked the local Hispanic community for the support they offered while he searched for his daughter.
"The Hispanic community are Iowans. They have the same values as Iowans," Rob Tibbetts said while delivering a eulogy for his daughter during her funeral, according to The Register.
"As far as I'm concerned, they're Iowans with better food."
President TrumpDonald TrumpGraham says he hopes that Trump runs again Trump says Stacey Abrams 'might be better than existing governor' Kemp Executive privilege fight poses hurdles for Trump MORE, however, has cited her murder as a call for stricter immigration.
"[Tibbetts] was killed by a horrible person that came in from Mexico, illegally here, found by [Immigration and Customs Enforcement], our great ICE who’s abused by the Democrats and the left, and without them you might not be sitting here so comfortably right now," Trump told "Fox & Friends" host Ainsley Earhardt during an interview that aired Thursday.
"I just think it's so sad. We're building the wall. It's already started. … The wall is going up. A lot of people don't know that. I'd like to build it even faster, but dealing with the Democrats is very tough," Trump said.
Murphy fired back to those pushing the anti-immigration rhetoric in her Facebook post, writing that no one has the right to “exacerbate this grievous act by hijacking Mollie and all she believed with your racist fear-mongering.”
“You do not get to use her murder to inaccurately promote your ‘permanently separated’ hyperbole,” she wrote. “You do not have permission to callously use this tragedy to demonize an entire population for the acts of one man.”