‘We’re fighting like hell’: Father of missing Iowa student appeals for daughter’s return

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BROOKLYN, Iowa — For two weeks, investigators have been searching for clues and conducting hundreds of interviews in the search for Mollie Tibbetts. But it’s still unclear what happened to the missing University of Iowa student.

Her family and friends are posting flyers, talking to people and doing media interviews to spread awareness about the 20-year-old.

On Thursday, her family and Crime Stoppers of Central Iowa are holding a press conference to discuss the case.

When asked whether he had a message for his missing daughter, Rob Tibbetts told HLN, CNN’s sister network, “Just hang in there, pie. We’re fighting like hell. … We’ll find you.”

Her father also made an appeal should someone be holding his daughter.

“You obviously care for Mollie and, if you’re holding her, you’ve made a huge mistake,” he said. “Don’t compound it by dragging this out another minute. Let her go and turn yourself in. Face the consequences for the small act that you’ve done but don’t compound it.”

Mollie Tibbetts disappeared on July 18 in Brooklyn, Iowa, a small community an hour east of Des Moines, according to the Poweshiek County Sheriff’s Office.

More than 200 interviews have been conducted in the investigation into her disappearance, said Richard Rahn, the special agent in charge with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation for the Major Crime Unit, earlier this week.

Investigators have been looking at various data, including social media and information from a Fitbit that Tibbetts is known to have used.

“It’s intolerable. No one just disappears, no one just vanishes without a trace,” her father told HLN.

Tibbetts was studying psychology and wanted to get a doctorate and write books, her father said.

On the day she disappeared, her brother dropped Tibbetts off at her boyfriend’s house so she could dog-sit, HLN reported. She was last spotted jogging around 7:30 that evening, wearing gym shorts, a black sports bra and running shoes, the sheriff’s office said.

Investigators have constructed a possible timeline in the case.

“The timeline is very important, obviously, to us, but it’s also been very important to us to get to know Mollie and understand what’s normal for Mollie, what’s not normal for Mollie,” Kevin Winker, director of investigative operations for the Iowa Department of Public Safety, said Tuesday.

When asked if authorities suspect that Tibbetts was abducted, Winker said, “We don’t know where Mollie is at right now. And I am not going to draw any conclusions about the circumstances of her disappearance. Other than it is not consistent with her past.”

Her mother, Laura Calderwood, said the recent weeks have felt like torture.

“The first night she went missing, I was distraught,” Calderwood told CNN affiliate KCCI in Des Moines. “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.’ “

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