Police question ‘stalker’ in missing jogger case
THE desperate search for a missing jogger is ramping up as cryptic clues about the 20-year-old's disappearance emerge.
University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts was last seen at around 7.30pm on Wednesday, July 18, while out for a run in the small town of Brooklyn.
She was dogsitting for her boyfriend at the time, and family members told local media authorities had found evidence she was working on her computer at the house late in the evening.
Her long-term boyfriend Dalton Jack, who is not a suspect, opened a mysterious Snapchat message from her at around 10pm that appeared to have been taken indoors, although the caption and time she sent it were not clear.
Police have been questioning a pig farmer who reportedly twice pleaded guilty to stalking, as well as a suspect in an assault on a jogger in another Iowa city and a man seen surreptitiously taking photos of young women out running, Fox News reported.
Officers in nearby Dubuque arrested a man after a jogger reported he had offered her flowers and grabbed her arm when she refused to give him her phone number.
A man in Pella, about an hour's drive from Brooklyn, was taken in for questioning after he was captured on CCTV last Friday taking photos of female joggers, but no charges have been made. Neither of the men have currently been linked to Ms Tibbetts' case.
The pig farmer also insisted he had "nothing to hide" after police interviewed him, checked his mobile phone records and searched his property.
Ms Tibbetts' family have now increased the reward for finding the university student to $233,000 and say they believe she is still alive.
"We believe Mollie is still alive and if someone has abducted her we are pleading with you to please release her," her mother Laura Calderwood said.
"To the best of my knowledge, I believe she did make it home from the run and was in (her boyfriend's) home," she told local news station KCCI.
The authorities have not confirmed or denied the claim, reluctant to release too much detail at this stage.
Mr Jack told Fox News he believed the home's doors would have been unlocked when his girlfriend disappeared.
"It's Brooklyn. You don't lock your doors," he said.
Co-workers realised Ms Tibbetts was missing when she did not turn up for work the next morning. Local, state and federal detectives have searched nearby cornfields and farms and are combing through mobile phone records, social media accounts and her fitness tracker to piece together what happened.
On Wednesday, the search appeared to cross state lines for the first time as police in Kearney, Missouri said they investigated a possible sighting at a Taco Bell.
But all the clues have so far led to dead ends.
Detectives from the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, said police were treating her disappearance as "suspicious".
They said there was "zero information" suggesting she would have run away or had a medical condition. DCI spokesman Mitch Mortvedt said they were "leaning more and more toward something happening to her against her will," including abduction.
"This is not like her at all," her aunt Kim Calderwood said. "She's a very responsible and conscientious young woman."
Ms Tibbetts was born in San Francisco and lived in Oakland before moving to Iowa with her mother at around the age of six, the Des Moines Register reported. Her father, who lives in Fresno, California, reportedly flew to Iowa to assist the search.
"The first night she went missing, I was distraught," her mother said. "I knew her phone was dead, but I sent her a text saying, 'I love you. We're looking for you. We will find you no matter what.'
"She has so many people that love her, and that's what I don't understand. Who would want to hurt her or any of the members of our family?"
Ms Calderwood said her daughter had just obtained her first passport and had been looking forward to a trip to the Dominican Republic with her boyfriend this month.
The worried mother said the 15-day wait for news of Ms Tibbetts had been like torture.
"It's a reality check every time I see one of those posters," she said. "It's like, 'she's gone!'"