Sunday 20th January 2019

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Molly Tibbetts, RIP

September 7, 2018 Frontpage No Comments

By MIKE MANNO

As regular readers of this column have probably surmised, I live in Iowa; more particularly, West Des Moines. From my house to Brooklyn, Iowa, where college student Molly Tibbetts was abducted and murdered, is about 80 miles, about an hour and a quarter along Interstate 80.
I mention this because of its proximity; the happenings in Brooklyn had quite an impact on the folks around here. In fact, anything in Iowa has quite an impact on the entire state. That’s just the way Iowans are.
Brooklyn itself is a peaceful place, noted for its avenue of flags: 20 x 38 foot American and state flags on 80 foot poles, designed so that they can be seen from the highway. Its official population in 2010 was 1,468 — small-town Iowa. It is located in Poweshiek County, population 18,914; quiet, mostly rural, and totally Iowa. Part of flyover country where people don’t lock their doors, are friendly to strangers, welcome outsiders, and things like what happened to Molly Tibbetts aren’t supposed to happen.
During the month she was missing, Molly Tibbetts became a household name in these parts, and most, while preparing for the worst, were hoping, along with her Dad, that she would be found safe and returned home.
There was a profound sadness here when it was announced that her body had been recovered in a cornfield only a few miles from her home. She was, after all, one of us, a pretty young unassuming college student on the verge of living out her dreams and ambitions. Like most people here, I never met Molly Tibbetts but I had a favorable opinion of her, and her family. She was spending the summer working at a day camp helping children with literacy, crafts, and other activities. These are the types of news events that people around here take personally.
Molly was pet-sitting in her boyfriend’s house while he was in Dubuque working. It was from there that she decided on a jog in the clean Iowa air. During that run she was seen and stalked by man in a black Chevrolet Malibu. A later-found surveillance tape showing the car allowed the police to trace the vehicle to the man now charged with Molly’s murder.
It was a sad day in Iowa, thoughts of Molly and the lost promise of her life had an effect on anyone with a heart.
But there was one additional bad note in the matter. The man charged with Molly’s murder was — for lack of a better description — an illegal alien from Mexico who had been living in the area for at least four years.
Unfortunately, the murder, and the identification of the murderer, made Molly something in death that she wasn’t in life, and something that she probably never wanted to be: a political issue.
Immediately the catcalls started and poor Molly Tibbetts became a political football, with some of the worst examples of public reaction being:
An AP White House reporter opined that the president would use the event to promote his Wall;
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), already on the 2020 presidential trail, made comments that suggested the separation of children at the border was of greater importance than Molly’s death;
An MSNBC guest criticized Fox News for covering the story about “some girl in Iowa,” and that was its only mention of the murder that day;
Never Trump pundit Rick Wilson referred to the murder as “a local crime story”;
Some conservatives, who criticize liberals for using mass shootings to politicize the gun debate, used Molly’s death to advance their immigration agenda;
The news media were quick to point out the murder’s employer, Yarrabee Farms, was operated by a prominent Republican — someone who had run unsuccessfully for the party’s nomination for secretary of agriculture; and
Dozens reposted Molly’s Facebook and Twitter posts to show that she was a liberal.
There were more, but I think you get the picture: Conservatives using the murder to gin up support for better border control and enforcement, and liberals downplaying the story so as not to create a backlash against “undocumented” immigrants.
I tend to agree mostly with Molly’s cousin, Samantha Lucas, who tweeted, “We are not so [explicative] small-minded that we generalize a whole population based on some bad individuals. Stop being a [explicative] snake and using my cousin’s death as political propaganda.”
I say mostly because there is something to say about our current immigration laws. The accused murderer, 24, had been in the country for at least half a dozen years and, according to reports, used another name and identification to get his job. His employer checked on the Social Security number he gave and found it was legitimate, but never did an E-Verify search, which, even if used, may not have been able to single him out as an illegal resident. And it is worth asking that if press accounts are true and Molly threatened to call the police on him, he might have acted differently if he need not have worried about his immigration status being discovered.
But this case is not quite like some of the more egregious instances where illegal aliens had jumped the border many times, and had been deported, only to return; or had been arrested for DUI only to be released to eventually kill an innocent bystander in a drunk-driving accident; or one who after returning after several deportations obtains a weapon where he “accidentally” kills a young woman walking with her father in San Francisco.
I guess what I’m trying to say is this is not the outrageous case that the stronger border crowd — with whom I generally agree — can or should be using to promote their efforts; nor is it the case that can casually be ignored by those advocating more tolerant policies for illegal border crossers.
It is in all respects a sad case of a man who took the life of an innocent young college student. Questions about his motives, immigrant status, and how that should affect the political debate should be considered; but making Molly Tibbetts a martyr or a political battle cry is certainly inappropriate. She should be remembered for what she was in life — a daughter, a girlfriend, a college student, who was taken much too soon.
So let us pray that Molly will rest in peace in her Savior’s arms and the angels will comfort her family and friends in their time of need.
Rest in peace, Molly, rest in peace.
(This story was written the week the arrest was made, August 21. Mike can be contacted at DeaconMike@q.com.)

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