THE SEARCH FOR IRENE: Fiancé of Missing Kenyan Seeks Stalking Protection Order Against Local Resident Leading Searches
Court Date Set for Thursday
- Published In: Other News & Features
- Last Updated: Sep 11, 2022
Irene Gakwa remains missing since March 20. Last year, she moved to Gillette with her fiance Nathan Hightman. Police say Hightman is a "person of interest" in her disappearance. (Courtesy photo from the Gakwa family)
By Jennifer Kocher
Special to the Wyoming Truth
GILLETTE, Wyo.—The fiancé of the missing Irene Gakwa has filed for a stalking protection order against a Gillette resident leading local searches to find her.
Nathan Hightman, 38, filed for the request on Sept. 9, asking that Tabitha “Stacy” Koester stay away from his residence and delete all of her TikTok videos that mention his name.
Gakwa, 33, moved to Gillette with Hightman from Idaho last July but disappeared in late February and has not been seen or heard from since. Gakwa’s older brothers in Idaho reported her missing on March 20, while Hightman alleges that Gakwa left one night in late February when she packed her belongings in two plastic bags and got into a dark-colored SUV.
Hightman has since been charged with five felonies related to Gakwa’s disappearance involving unauthorized use of her financial accounts, changing her banking password and deleting an email account.
Gillette police have named Hightman a “person of interest” in her case. Hightman has not cooperated with police, who say he has information they are interested in, but has chosen not to share it, according to Lt. Brent Wasson.
Koester, 39, who never met Gakwa, has been searching for her since June. She galvanized a small group of other local residents and has conducted numerous searches looking for Gakwa, including one on Saturday.
An office manager for a tire company, Koester documents updates on the searches and her research in daily TikTok videos @soldiermomwy. These videos are at the heart of Hightman’s petition for the stalking order.
Hightman alleges that Koester has posted “personal information on her TikTok account, including first, middle, last name, date of birth, address, GPS of my house,” along with multiple pictures and videos of his home, according to the application filed in circuit court.
He further alleges that surveillance and posting of his schedule 24 hours a day has incited people against him. Hightman, who is currently unemployed according to court records, had worked an online tech support job from home.
In one video posted on Sept. 6, Hightman claims that Koester said “I hope he is terrified.” He also said that Koester has driven past his home in North Gillette shouting his name.
He requested that all of Koester’s videos mentioning his name, family or home be deleted and that she stay away from his home.
Koester refuted Hightman’s allegations, insisting that she’s done nothing wrong.
“Never have I once made a threat towards Nathan’s safety, nor would I,” Koester said in a text message to the Wyoming Truth on Saturday. “I am not a danger to any human being. I am searching to bring a missing woman home, and it is very sad that instead of helping search, he’s trying to stop my efforts to locate Irene. I have stayed within the law 100%, and I will continue to do so in my searches for Irene.”
Hightman also claims that Koester reached out to him through unsolicited texts and phone calls between July 24 and Aug. 6, including a handful of messages from “blocked” or “restricted” numbers, an allegation Koester staunchly refuted.
She admitted to contacting him on her own phone number but never used a restricted number.
“I’m straight up and honest in my communications,” she said, noting she did not reach out to him again after he did not respond to those initial contacts.
Per the guidelines of the stalking order request, Koester has since taken down her videos and has agreed to stay away from Hightman’s residence.
Hightman did not immediately return a request for comment.
The hearing for the stalking protection order is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 15 at 11 a.m. in Circuit Court of the Sixth Judicial District in Campbell County.
Hightman’s pre-trial conference for the five felonies is scheduled for Nov. 3, with his jury trial tentatively scheduled for Dec. 5. If found guilty, each crime carries a penalty of between three to 10 years in prison, a fine of no more than $10,000, or both.