Mollie Tibbetts
Mollie Tibbetts

July 30, 2018

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst — while stressing she had no major clues herself on the disappearance of Mollie Tibbetts — said her office is involved in the high-profile missing-persons case.

The Iowa Republican, during a visit to west-central Iowa, also raised the possibility that human traffickers nabbed the 20-year-old University of Iowa student more than a week ago.

“Human traffickers, we just don’t know,” Ernst, a Red Oak Republican, said in Carroll during an exchange with employees of Graphic Edge.

On Friday afternoon, Ernst toured Graphic Edge, a major sports apparel company, and then took questions. Peg Sanders, human resources manager for the business, asked Ernst her thoughts on the Tibbetts case.

“We are helping the family with some issues,” Ernst said. “There are things we can do in the federal government to assist in helping law enforcement agencies.”

The senator declined to provide more details on her involvement in the case.

Without any prompting in questions, Ernst brought up the issues of human trafficking in connection with the Brooklyn, Iowa case. Ernst has been an outspoken advocate — with a trail of bipartisan legislation on her resume — for preventing violence against women, whether in the military or on college campuses.

Des Moines is ranked as a Top 100 city in the United States for human trafficking, Ernst said.

“If you see something, say something,” she said.

Ernst said Congress did pass an anti-human trafficking bill during her time in the Senate.

“President Obama signed it,” Ernst said. “It does provide for greater education, what to be aware of for human trafficking, education for law enforcement and then for various policing activities.”

Ernst said there continue to be trafficking problems with websites on the Dark Net, sites like Backpage.com, “which I think we finally got shut down, where you can go to this website and openly advertise: ‘I have a 13-year-old girl. Who would like to buy her?’ or whatever.”

In April, Backpage.com pleaded guilty to human trafficking charges in Texas.

Tibbetts was last seen jogging in Brooklyn on the evening of July 18, wearing gym shorts, a black sports bra and running shoes, According to The Des Moines Register. She previously had been dog-sitting at the home of her boyfriend and her boyfriend’s brother in Brooklyn.

Authorities don’t know if Tibbetts went missing that night or the next morning, The Register reported.

The search continues for the 5-foot-3 white woman with brown hair and eyes, weighing 120 pounds.