BREAKING: THE SEARCH FOR IRENE: Sentencing of Fiancé of Missing Kenyan Scheduled for Financial and Intellectual Property Crimes

With his bond revoked, Nathan Hightman awaits sentencing in Campbell County Detention Center

Nathan Hightman, 39, is awaiting sentencing in the Campbell County Detention Center after pleading guilty in March to three felony crimes related to financial and intellectual property crimes against his missing fiancé, Irene Gakwa. (Courtesy photo from the Campbell County Detention Center)

By Jennifer Kocher

Special to the Wyoming Truth

GILLETTE, Wyo.—The sentencing date for the fiancé of Irene Gakwa, the missing Kenyan nursing student, has been set for June 14.

Nathan Hightman, 39, pleaded guilty to three felony charges on March 28 in Campbell County District Court before District Judge James Michael Causey. The crimes include illegally accessing Gakwa’s checking account and the unauthorized use of her credit card, as well as deleting her Google email account.  

As a result of his plea, Hightman’s $10,000 cash bond was revoked. He is currently being housed in the general population at the Campbell County Detention Center, according to Matthew Centner, the jail’s administrative assistant. 

Gakwa, 33, has been missing under suspicious circumstances since late February 2022. Hightman, who is considered by police to be a person of interest in her disappearance, said she left on her own accord. Gakwa and Hightman had lived together in Gillette after moving from Idaho in July 2021.

Following Gakwa’s mysterious disappearance, Hightman was arrested on five felony charges in May 2022 related to financial and intellectual property crimes against her. The original five charges include using her debit card without permission and maxing out her credit in excess of $5,000. He also was accused of deleting her email account.

In exchange for Hightman’s guilty plea, a subsequent theft charge and another charge related to changing her banking password were dropped.

The combined felonies are punishable for up to 23 years in prison, a fine of no more than $23,000 or both.

However, the sentencing guidelines have yet to be determined because Hightman entered into a “cold plea,” which means there’s no sentencing recommendation by either the state or the defense. Each party can argue whatever sentence it sees fit.   

As part of his plea, Hightman also will be required to pay restitution for the full value of the money stolen from Gakwa.

Campbell County Attorney Nathan Henkes said his office does not comment on active cases. Hightman’s public attorney, Dallas Lamb, has also refused to comment on Hightman’s case despite repeated requests.

Hightman did not accept a request for a meeting with the Wyoming Truth.

Hightman’s sentencing is scheduled for June 14 at 9:45 a.m. and is expected to last 45 minutes.

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