DES MOINES, IOWA — A relative of Mollie Tibbetts spoke forcefully online Friday against political rhetoric surrounding the Iowa woman's killing.
Sandi Tibbetts Murphy expressed her desire to "reclaim our Mollie" from those using her as part of their "racist, false narrative."
"Mollie was killed, and a man has been arrested and charged with her murder," she wrote. "Yes, that man is an immigrant to this country, with uncertainty as to his legal status. But it matters not."
Local TV station KCCI reports Murphy is Tibbetts' cousin. The station says Tibbetts' aunt, Billie Jo Calderwood, shared a similar sentiment in a now-deleted Facebook post: "Evil comes in EVERY color."
Cristhian Bahena Rivera, who is charged with first-degree murder in Tibbetts' death, worked on an Iowa dairy farm despite his status as an undocumented immigrant. Many Republicans are citing Tibbetts' death as a reason to pass a bill requiring all U.S. companies to use a federal system to check the immigration status of all job applicants.
Rivera's attorney, former employer and U.S. officials have presented conflicting accounts of Rivera's immigration status.
But Murphy said those casting blame should instead focus on the accused killer's "sense of male entitlement."
"We must be willing to address the way we raise our boys and young men, so that violence is not a part of their response to this world," she wrote.
"It is not your right to exacerbate this grievous act by hijacking Mollie and all she believed with your racist fear-mongering. You do not get to use her murder to inaccurately promote your 'permanently separated' hyperbole. You do not have permission to callously use this tragedy to demonize an entire population for the acts of one man.
"No. We reclaim our Mollie."
Contributing: Joel Shannon and Alan Gomez, USA TODAY. Follow Alex Ivanisevic on Twitter: @alivanisevic