Last week, Cristhian Rivera was arrested for the murder of Mollie Tibbetts, an Iowa woman who had been missing since July 18. Rivera followed Tibbetts in his car, eventually confronting her on foot, and then “blacked out” after she threatened to call the police. Her body was later discovered in a cornfield 15 miles from her home.
Police were able to hone in on Rivera, thanks to video footage showing Rivera’s car passing the area where Tibbetts was jogging. He was arrested and charged with first-degree murder, and if convicted, he faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.
But who is Cristhian Rivera’s lawyer defending him against these charges? It turns out that Rivera has actually changed lawyers.
In documents filed on Sunday and Monday, Rivera withdrew his former attorney, Allan Richards, as well as several motions Richards had filed. Instead, he will now be represented by Chad Frese and Jennifer Frese. So, who are his new lawyers?
1. They're a married couple.
The two work in the same building in Marshalltown, but work for different firms. Chad Frese has practiced criminal law for 25 years and does criminal defense work, while Jennifer Frese has been a criminal defense lawyer for 10 years.
2. This isn't their first case together.
Though they’ve worked together in the past, they’ve never worked a case like this. The attorneys decided it’d be best for Rivera to have two attorneys defending him since it’s a high-profile case.
3. We don't know the reason for the withdrawal of Rivera's first lawyer.
The documents obtained don’t list a reason as to why Richards was dismissed as Rivera’s lawyer, and Frese said she didn’t ask for one, either. “The family reached out to us and we met with them first, and then we met with Mr. Rivera on Friday evening and he decided to move forward with the change of counsel,” she said.
4. They withdrew a request to bar media from the courtroom.
Richards had initially filed the motion before being dismissed. “It’s not something Chad and I would have requested if we were on the case initially, so that’s the reason we’re withdrawing it,” Frese commented.
5. From the beginning, they have criticized media attention from the Tibbetts case.
On the day Tibbetts’ body was found, Chad Frese made a public Facebook post about the case, criticizing the media attention surrounding a different suspect, Wayne Cheney, a hog farmer in the area. He was questioned by authorities and had his property searched. Frese wrote that people had already had their minds made up, even before any arrests were made.
In an interview, Frese defended his post and said he wasn’t giving an opinion; rather, he was speaking to the law, saying that anyone who is accused of a crime “is deserving of a full and fair defense.”
“I wasn't saying I thought he was the killer, I was just parroting the media narrative,” he continued. “I was just parroting what we were being fed at that point in time. Nowhere in that post do I spout my opinion as to what this gentleman had done or didn’t do. The point of the post is that no one should rush to judgment in any situation like this and that it was a point about the Sixth Amendment — that individuals have the right to counsel and that anyone could find themselves in the crosshairs of being accused.”
Samantha Maffucci is an associate editor for YourTango. In her free time, you can find her obsessing about cats, wine, and all things Vanderpump Rules.