I like to binge-watch TV shows about murder mysteries. “Criminal Minds,” “48 Hours” and “20/20” are just a few to name.
The disappearance and later-discovered dead body of Iowa college student Mollie Tibbetts felt like an episode of one of these shows. Her death, however, resonated with me and the rest of the country much longer than a mere 60-minute episode.
Mollie Tibbetts disappeared on the evening of July 18. Her body was eventually found on August 21 in a rural area south of her hometown. The case is now becoming a political issue because the man who killed her is an undocumented immigrant.
What strikes me about the Mollie Tibbetts case is that she was a 20-year-old college student, a psychology major. She was involved in her school, worked as a camp counselor and enjoyed exercising.
I’m a 20-year-old college student, a psychology major and I share a lot of aspects of Tibbetts’ life.
Identifying with a recently-murdered girl is not a pleasant feeling and it hits close to home.
She was last seen jogging through her neighborhood in Brooklyn, Iowa, a small city with a population of less than 1,500. This is what many would consider the middle of nowhere.
I feel safe at Lehigh and back at home in Connecticut. I would especially feel safe in a low-population area without much activity. It’s concerning that this particular crime could happen in such an unforeseen area, and it could definitely happen here in Bethlehem.
One of the disappointing things about this case is xenophobia has been the headlines and focus on Tibbetts’ killer rather than the girl herself.
Tibbetts’ father wrote a column for the Des Moines Register where he expressed his support for a healthy debate regarding immigration. He also said, however, “Do not appropriate Mollie’s soul in advancing views she believed were profoundly racist.”
First of all, I support Tibbetts’ father and I don’t believe a healthy debate constitutes involving a dead girl. I also find it frightening that what Tibbetts believed in isn’t even being considered.
A white, black or Asian person could have had the same will and motivation to kill Tibbetts as her killer did.
I wouldn’t argue that building more walls or making it more difficult to become a citizen would have lead to Tibbetts being alive today.
There are certainly other measures that could have prevented the murder. Tibbetts was jogging at night, a more risky time to be out and alone. We don’t know what type of interaction she had with her killer. Tibbetts also may not have realized this man was a harm to her initially, and giving him some trust could have made things spiral out of control.
The community where the murder took place was one that doesn’t lock their doors, so general precautions like that could prevent even smaller things like burglaries.
In other words, there are some complicated elements along with unknown factors that play a more crucial role in this case than the killer’s background and citizenship. I don’t think the killer’s citizenship would have made much of a difference, especially since I don’t believe there was any motivation to kill Tibbetts because of her citizenship or ethnicity.
We do need to keep immigration issues open because they’re a significant aspect of political debate. But tragedies don’t need to be politicized because the act will only harm the victim, the family and community members.
Kayla Sippin, ’20, is an associate news editor for The Brown and White. She can be reached at [email protected].