Footage has emerged of an abduction attempt that occurred just one day before 20-year-old student Mollie Tibbetts went missing. What makes it even more disconcerting is that the incident took place just a few hundred miles from where Tibbetts was last seen, and involved the attempted kidnapping of a jogger by a man in a black SUV – the same type of vehicle spotted circling the small town of Brooklyn, Iowa when Mollie vanished while out jogging.
Police in Miner, Missouri say that a woman reported that a man in a black van had approached her and demanded that she get in his car. When she refused, he got “very aggressive,” according to authorities. The incident took place on July 17, just a day before Mollie went missing after going for an evening run; Miner is 450 miles away from Brooklyn. Over the past few days, reports have emerged of a local woman recalling a black SUV slowly circling the neighborhood in which Mollie went missing on the night she disappeared.
The claimed sighting was alleged by a young woman who lives a block away from the home of Tibbetts’ boyfriend, where Mollie was staying on her own while her partner was working out of town. Between 11:30 p.m. and 1 a.m., the woman said she observed the suspicious-looking vehicle lurking around the small neighborhood. She told Fox News that she subsequently reported her information to the FBI when questioned.
As for the driver of the black SUV that approached a jogger in Missouri, police say he currently remains at large.
“I think it’s well within the possibility that there could be some sort of connection with Mollie’s case,” said Miner’s chief of police, Chris Griggs, according to Inside Edition.
Investigators have turned their attention back to local pig farmer Wayne Cheney, after questioning him at length last week. Cheney, who has prior convictions for stalking and breaching a restraining order, has not been charged and voluntarily permitted authorities to search the entirety of his property. There are, however, reports that he refused to take a polygraph, or “lie detector” test.
Quite remarkably, Mollie’s father, Rob, said that he believes his daughter is still alive and with someone she knows. “It’s totally speculation on my part, but I think Mollie is with someone that she knows, that is in over their head,” he explained. “That there was some kind of misunderstanding about the nature of their relationship and at this point they don’t know how to get out from under this.”
Tibbetts noted that he believes the person she is with means her no harm. “My two cents is that no one went into that house to hurt her,” he continued.
Tibbetts added: “The longer we go without finding Mollie’s body, the more hopeful we are that she’s alive somewhere and going through something that she can survive.”
But despite hundreds of tips, investigators are still no closer to locating the missing student. “Unfortunately, we have not yet found Mollie, but it has not been due to a lack of effort or a lack of resources,” director of investigative operations for the Iowa Department of Public Safety, Kevin Winker, told CNN, adding that the case was becoming “frustrating.”
The reward Mollie’s family are offering for her safe return has now reached some $260,000.
On the day of her disappearance, Tibbetts’s brother dropped her off at her boyfriend’s house so she could dog-sit. According to the sheriff’s office, she was last spotted jogging around 7:30 that evening, wearing gym shorts, a pink sports bra and running shoes. She has not been seen since. Her activities at the time of her disappearance have led investigators to scan the data on Mollie’s fitbit device, hunting for clues as to her whereabouts.
Mitch Mortvedt, of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, has executed warrants to access Mollie’s Instagram and Facebook accounts, in addition to her Fitbit, according to the BBC.
Authorities have revealed that there was a “possible sighting” of Tibbetts in the Kansas City, Missouri, area at the end of last month. However, CBS News reported that the sighting had been “ruled out by investigators” due to its lack of verification. A body was also discovered in rural Iowa over the weekend, but police quickly confirmed it was not Mollie.
“The first night she went missing, I was distraught,” Mollie’s mom, Laura Calderwood told KCCI-TV. “I knew her phone was dead, but I sent her a text saying, ‘I love you. We’re looking for you. We will find you no matter what.’”