NEWS 5.27.21: Jury Deliberations in Tibbetts Trial, NE Legislative Session Ends, and COVID-19 Update

May 27, 2021

Deliberations will resume Friday morning in the Mollie Tibbitts Murder Trial.

During closing arguments, a prosecutor urged jurors to find a farm laborer guilty of first-degree murder in the 2018 abduction and stabbing death of the University of Iowa student who disappeared while out for a run. The prosecutor says testimony revealed “overwhelming evidence” that Cristhian Bahena Rivera is guilty. He called Bahena Rivera’s testimony that two men kidnapped him at gunpoint and forced him to take part in the crime “a figment of his imagination.” A defense lawyer said prosecutors had failed to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Nebraska is reporting its lowest level of new virus cases since last April — shortly after the coronavirus pandemic began. State health officials said around 500 cases were reported over the past week. That is the smallest number of new positive cases in the state since April 2020.

Over the past week, five new deaths were added for a total of 2,249 deaths. No new deaths were reported in the past three days in Nebraska.

The Iowa Department of Public Health added five more deaths due to complications of COVID-19 in a 24-hour period that ended at 10 this morning, and 132 new cases with eight in Woodbury County. There have been 6,047 deaths in Iowa. The seven-day test positivity rate statewide has fallen to 2.4%.

Nebraska lawmakers have ended a historic session marked by major tax cuts, a grant program to expand high-speed internet service and regulations to clear the way for the state’s new casino industry. But they left major work unfinished, most notably the once-a-decade ritual of redrawing the state’s congressional and legislative districts. That means they'll have to return to the Capitol later this year. The session was also shaped by the coronavirus pandemic and bitter disputes over how to use excess money in the state budget.

However, lawmakers did brush aside objections of Governor Pete Rickets to expanded Nebraska’s food stamp and heating assistance programs.

Lawmakers did override Governor Ricketts vetoes of food stamp and heating assistance programs.

The newly enacted laws will allow almost 4,000 Nebraska families to qualify for federal food-assistance benefits and expand eligibility for federal heating assistance.