Best of AP — Honorable Mention


Iowa pair, first contacted by AP, deny involvement in Tibbetts’ death

FILE - In this Aug. 21, 2018, file photo, A poster for then-missing University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts hangs in the window of a local business in Brooklyn, Iowa, Aug. 21, 2018. Cristhian Bahena Rivera was convicted of first-degree murder in the stabbing death of Tibbetts, but Bahena Rivera’s defense attorneys have suggested that two other men, Gavin Jones and Dalton Hansen, may be suspects. Those men, first contacted by AP, denied any involvement in the case. Judge Joel Yates has granted a defense motion for an inmate at an Iowa prison, to testify at Rivera's sentencing hearing at the Poweshiek County Courthouse in Montezuma, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

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Defense attorney Jennifer Frese, left, speaks during a hearing for her client Cristhian Bahena Rivera at the Poweshiek County Courthouse in Montezuma, Iowa, July 15, 2021. Bahena Rivera was convicted of the 2018 killing of University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts. – Jim Slosiarek / The Gazette, Pool via AP

Iowa City correspondent Ryan J. Foley was steadfast: Before publicly identifying two men suggested as suspects in the 2018 murder of Mollie Tibbetts, he needed to talk to them. The sentencing of another man convicted in the stabbing death of the University of Iowa student had been delayed after his defense attorneys offered up Gavin Jones and Dalton Hansen as possible suspects. Foley was appalled that Iowa media outlets were identifying the two men as suspects without trying to reach them for comment. Neither man had been contacted — by law enforcement, news media or anyone else — after they were named by the defense.

That changed when Foley dug deep to unearth phone numbers buried in unrelated court documents. When reached, Hansen called the allegations crazy but confirmed his connection to Jones and said he knew the inmate who was implicating the pair in the case. Jones also eventually answered Foley’s call, but demanded to know how Foley got the number, started to swear at him and almost hung up. But Foley calmed the man, keeping him on the line long enough to maintain his innocence and assert he has alibis lined up to share with investigators whenever they reach out to him. “The cops haven’t talked to me. No one has talked to me. You are the first person that has called me, he told Foley.

Other outlets had stories about the judge’s expected ruling rejecting the defense arguments,but Foley was exclusive, leading with the comments of both men accused by defense lawyers.

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