Fiancé of Missing Kenyan Nursing Student Yanks Appeal for Financial Crimes

Nathan Hightman Asks for Appeal to be Dismissed in Wyoming Supreme Court

Nathan Hightman, 40, was sentenced to three to six years after pleading guilty to three felonies for financial crimes related to Irene Gakwa, who has been missing since February 2022. (Courtesy photo from the Campbell County Detention Center)

By Jennifer Kocher

Special to the Wyoming Truth

Nathan Hightman, who pleaded guilty to three financial and intellectual crimes against his missing fiancé, nursing student Irene Gakwa, voluntarily withdrew his request to appeal his sentence before the Wyoming Supreme Court.

Hightman, 40, filed the appeal in September after being sentenced in Campbell County District Court on June 14 to three to six years for the felonies. The felonies include maxing out Gakwa’s credit card and illegally accessing her bank account for purchases in excess of $5,000.

Hightman is currently detained at the Wyoming medium correctional facility in Torrington.

Hightman’s Oct. 23 request to yank his appeal follows an earlier request for a two-week delay in filing his brief in the case. It was initially due on Oct. 26, but the court extended the deadline to Nov. 6., according to documents filed in the case.

The court granted the request to dismiss Hightman’s appeal on Oct. 24. Hightman’s state public defender, Jeremy Meerkreebs, did not respond to questions from the Wyoming Truth about the nature of Hightman’s appeal or why he decided to drop it.

Hightman is considered by police to be a “person of interest” in the mysterious disappearance of Gakwa, 34, who vanished in February 2022 from the couple’s home in Gillette. Hightman told police Gakwa left on her own accord with her belongings packed into two plastic bags.

Gakwa has not been heard from or seen since a video call with her parents in Nairobi, Kenya, in late February 2022. She was reported missing by her family on March 20, 2022.

Hightman admitted to police that he stole Gakwa’s money as a means of coercing her into contacting him after she left. Along with illegally accessing her money, Hightman also pleaded guilty to deleting Gakwa’s Gmail email account.

A subsequent theft charge and another charge related to Hightman’s having changed Gakwa’s banking password were dropped as part of his initial plea deal to the three felonies.

Kennedy Wainaina, Gakwa’s older brother who lives in Idaho, said his family was pleased Hightman withdrew the appeal request, because they don’t want to go through another sentencing hearing.

“One time was enough,” Wainaina told the Wyoming Truth Wednesday.

The Gillette Police Department continues to actively investigate Gakwa’s disappearance. There are no new updates, according to Brent Wasson, deputy chief of police.

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