Her family last saw her on a video call on February 24th. They were unware that she was living with her boyfriend.
On Labor Day weekend, concerned people in Gillette, Wyoming, continued their search in boats and on horseback for a woman who went missing more than six months ago. Irene Gakwa went missing after a video call with her family in February, reports CNN. Her family reported her missing a month later after not hearing from her in weeks. Her family wasn't aware that she was living in Gillette, Wyoming with a man she met on the Craigslist forum. Her father, Francis Kambo, who lives 9,000 miles away in Nairobi, Kenya said in a telephonic interview, "She was supposed to come home for Christmas this year. I was going to buy that ticket myself for her to come if she couldn't afford it. Now I don't know if I'll ever see her again."
Gakwa came to the United States three years back from Kenya to study nursing, reports Atlanta Blackstar. Her parents were concerned about how she would adjust to life in the United States because she was shy and introverted before leaving home. She originally resided in Meridian with one of her elder brothers, Chris Munga, and his wife, Gyoice Abatey. Gakwa relocated to Gillette in the summer of 2021 to live with her partner, Nathan Hightman, 39, an unemployed computer professional whom she met on a Craigslist forum in 2020.
Abatey, who is close to Gakwa, claims the missing woman informed her about Hightman in 2020 but never divulged the details of their connection. The pair was frequently on and off, and her relatives assumed they had split and were unaware she was staying with the man until she went missing.
Her father became concerned after she did not reply to frequent video conversations in late February. This was uncommon as she spoke to her parents almost every day. Her written messages also seemed strange, according to her family. Instead of her usual blend of Swahili and Kenyan slang, the texts were in awkward English, as if someone had used Google Translate to deliver them, according to Wainaina, her oldest brother.
Her father stated that the last WhatsApp message she received was on March 9. According to an affidavit of probable cause in a separate criminal case against her boyfriend, her brothers reported her missing to the Gillette Police Department on March 20, and an officer spoke with Hightman the same day.
She moved to the US with big dreams and met a boyfriend on Craigslist. Then she vanished— Wunpini F. Mohammed, Ph.D. (@wunpini_fm) September 4, 2022
Irene Gakwa's last WhatsApp video call with her parents was filled with gentle ribbing. But beneath the banter were hints that something was off.https://t.co/iF6prH0nGn
According to the affidavit, Hightman informed the officer that he last saw Gakwa in late February, when she came home one night, packed her things in two plastic bags, and departed in a dark-colored SUV. He informed the police he hadn't heard from her in a long time. He further stated that he had withdrawn funds from her bank account, forcing her to call him if she needed money.
Gillette police detective Dan Stroup said, "We believe he has information pertaining to the disappearance of Irene, but he has elected not to provide that information to law enforcement at this time."
Hightman has not been charged in Gakwa's disappearance, but he has been charged with financial offenses committed against her after she went missing. Meanwhile, Gakwa's two brothers and sister-in-law have been driving from Meridian to Gillette several weekends a month to arrange search parties. The entire community is helping out in the search for the missing woman.
Cover Image Source: Find Irene Gakwa/Facebook