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Finding Irene Gakwa: Reward fund setup for missing Kenyan woman in US

By Hilary Kimuyu September 23rd, 2022 3 min read

While the search for Irene Gakwa continues, a reward fund has now been set up.

The GoFundMe page has been created to collect money that will be paid out to the person who gives information leading to the location of a missing barrel, arrest and conviction of the suspect behind the disappearance of the Kenyan woman in the US.

Gakwa was last seen by her family during a video call on February 24, 2022, and was reported missing in late March 2022. She was 32 at the time.

The Kenyan immigrant lived in Gillette with her boyfriend, Nathan Hightman, who is considered a person of interest in her disappearance.

He was separately charged with five felonies for allegedly transferring money from her bank account, changing her online banking password, maxing out her credit card and deleting her email account after she vanished.

A 55-gallon metal drum has become a big focus in the search for the 33-year-old after police said it may be connected to the case, CNN reported.

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Kenyan national Irene Gakwa, who been reported missing in the US.
Kenyan national Irene Gakwa, who been reported missing in the US. PHOTO | COURTESY

The Go Fund Me page has been started by Stacy Koester, a resident of Gillette who has been organizing searches with a group of local women since April even though she did not know Irene in person.

“All money that is donated on this GoFundMe will be put towards an award that will be paid out to the person or people who help us locate the missing barrel and help us achieve an arrest and conviction of the person responsible for Irene’s disappearance,” Koester says.

Koester says all the funds raised will go directly to Gakwa’s family in the event the reward is not paid out.

In a May statement, Gillette police said they are “requesting information regarding the possibility of a 55-gallon metal drum, which may have been burned and/or abandoned within the county.”

Police have declined to say why they’re seeking details about the drum or what role it may have played in Gakwa’s disappearance.

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Kenyan national Irene Gakwa (right), who been reported missing in the US, and her boyfriend Nathan Nightman. PHOTO | COURTESY

But Gakwa’s oldest brother, Kennedy Wainaina, said Gillette police told the family that a neighbour reported seeing what appeared to be a fire burning in a drum in Hightman’s backyard between late February and March.

Nathan Hightman, 39, was arrested and charged with draining Gakwa’s bank accounts, deleting her email account and using her credit card at Walmart to buy a shovel, a pair of boots and a pair of pants.

He was released on a $10,000 (Ksh1,205,300) bond and his pretrial conference is scheduled for November after he pleaded not guilty to the financial charges and is scheduled to go on trial in December.

He is considered a person of interest in her disappearance and has “not made himself available to detectives looking to resolve questions that exist in the investigation,” Gillette police said in a statement.

‘We believe he has information on the disappearance of Irene, but he has elected not to provide that information to law enforcement at this time,” Stroup said.

Hightman told investigators he last saw Gakwa in late February, when she came home one night, packed her clothing in two plastic bags and left in a dark-coloured SUV, according to the affidavit of probable cause. He told police he hadn’t heard from her since.

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