Debate is raging over whether the Kenyans in the US are doing enough – if anything at all – in assisting in the search for their compatriot, Irene Gakwa, who went missing nearly seven months ago?
Gakwa was reported missing in Gillette, Wyoming and efforts to trace her have not borne fruit.
Stacy Koester is part of a team of women who are devoting much of their time looking for clues in the case of a missing woman they have never met.
Like most of her colleagues, her car is stashed with items not found in most cars: Blue latex gloves. Allergy medicine. Bandages. Small utility knives, as they search for the woman.
Koester and others are now combing the area. The women have been so vocal that you would think they were close friends, or even relatives of Gakwa. But they are just good Samaritans who want to see justice done.
But where are the Kenyans in the US in all this? wonders Michael Kirkland of Wyoming who spoke to ksnmedia.com.
“I just see them making a lot of noise on social media rather than use the same energy to figure out the wherebouts of their compatriot. This is wrong on so many fronts,” he said on Sunday.
“Ii is a shame that it is American women – and white American women for that matter – who have taken the lead. Where are the Kenyans for goodness sake?” she posed.
Gakwa, 32, has not been heard from since February 24th when she had a WhatsApp video call with her parents who live in Nairobi, Kenya.
She emigrated to the United States in May 2019, hoping to launch a career in nursing and first settled in Idaho, where she lived with her brothers Chris Munga and Kennedy Wainaina while attending classes.
This is when she met a man on Craigslist named Nathan Hightman and the two started dating before they decided to relocate to Wyoming in the summer of 2021. The two were engaged and lived together in a three-bedroom house in Gillette.
“It seemed OK. At that time, everything seemed OK. I didn’t really know Nathan, but I said, ‘If you’re going to date my sister, I really need to Hightman is considered a person of interest in her disappearance and he’s 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.
Wainaina says he grew suspicious when he noticed that the language in her sister’s text messages had changed.
“We’re from Kenya and sometimes we mix English and a language called Swahili. We mix a word of English and a word of Swahili, so I can tell that’s her. But then, on March 5, I texted her and asked her something. She texted back, and it was only English. So now that I know what I know, maybe it wasn’t her,” he said.
Wainaina and his brother Munga reported her missing to the Gillette Police Department on March 20th.
It is alleged that Irene and Hightman, 38, had broken up several times since they began dating in 2020. Her brothers thought the two were no longer dating and were not aware they had reunited and moved in together.
Hightman told police in March that Irene came home one night and packed her clothes in two bags and then left in a dark-colored SUV.
“I think that’s false. That’s a false story, something he was just saying to get the police off his porch,” Wainaina told NewsNation.
Police later arrested Hightman and charged him with draining Irene’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 bond and his pretrial conference is scheduled for November.
He told police that he withdrew money from her accounts in an attempt to force her to contact him when she needed cash.
Stacy Koester, a resident of Gillette has been organizing searches with a group of local women since April even though she did not know Irene in person. She organized a search with horses that specialize in human decomposition, used cadaver dogs, and covered hundreds of miles.
“There’s a lot of vast open country and one main road may have 50 to 60 side roads, twists and turns. So, it’s covering the areas and making sure that you don’t go over those same places repeatedly,” Koester told NewsNation.
Koester was recently hit with a protective stalking order by Hightman, who objected to her using his name and other information on TikTok.
“I was blown away by this because I’m not doing anything wrong. I’m looking for a missing woman,” Koester said.
Koester appeared in court Thursday to deal with the protective stalking order that’s been filed against her.
Police believe Irene was taken to a rural area, mine site, or oil and gas location in a passenger vehicle or crossover SUV between February 24th and March 20th.
Detectives asked the public for information concerning a gray or silver Subaru Crosstrek with Idaho license plates that may have been trespassing or appearing out of place in rural Converse County between those dates. They also sought information about a possible 55-gallon metal drum that may have been burned or abandoned in the county.
Anyone with information on the case is urged to call the Gillette Police Department at 307-682-5155.