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In Brooklyn, "A Hole In Everybody's Heart"

Kate Payne / IPR
A prayer service for Mollie Tibbetts is planned for Wednesday evening in her hometown of Brooklyn.

People in Mollie Tibbetts’ hometown said Wednesday they’re heartbroken by the news of her death.

Early Tuesday, investigators found what they believe to be the remains of the 20-year-college student in a field southeast of Brooklyn, in Poweshiek County.

Twenty-four-year-old Cristhian Rivera has been charged with her murder. Investigators say he is an undocumented immigrant, but his attorney filed papers in court Wednesday disputing that.

Rusty Clayton is a life-long Brooklyn resident and owns a hardware store.

“I’m…I’m doing better than yesterday,” he said. “But it just put a hole in everybody’s heart. It’s just going to be…It’s going to take a while to…heal.”

He said Tibbetts was a bubbly, energetic person, and that her story is resonating throughout the country.

“I mean we’ve had people from Virginia and Tennessee and Arizona and everything that’s reached out and said you know, ‘our thoughts and prayers are with and we’ll help you search’,” he said. “And I’m sure their thoughts and prayers will be with us as we mourn.”

Clayton said he hopes people across the nation will continue to support the Tibbetts family and the Brooklyn community as they mourn the death of Mollie Tibbetts.

Tibbetts’ family released a statement Wednesday, saying in part, “"Our hearts are broken. On behalf of Mollie’s entire family, we thank all of those from around the world who have sent their thoughts and prayers for our girl. We know that many of you will join us as we continue to carry Mollie in our hearts forever.”

A prayer service was scheduled for Wednesday evening at St. Patrick Roman Catholic Church in Brooklyn.

Clay Masters is Iowa Public Radio’s Morning Edition host and lead political reporter.