THE SEARCH FOR IRENE: Fiancé of Missing Kenyan to Change Plea for Alleged Felony Financial Crimes

Court proceeding scheduled for March 28

Nathan Hightman, 39, was arrested last May on five counts of alleged financial and intellectual property crimes against Irene Gakwa, 33, who has been missing since February 2022. (Courtesy photo from the Campbell County Detention Center)

By Jennifer Kocher

Special to the Wyoming Truth

GILLETTE, Wyo.—The fiancé of the missing Kenyan nursing student will change his plea in the felony charges related to his alleged financial crimes in the wake of her 2022 disappearance.

Nathan Hightman, 39, was charged for five felony crimes related to Irene Gakwa, 33, who has been missing since late February 2022.  

The alleged felonies include three counts of theft for draining Gakwa’s bank account and unlawful use of her credit card, as well as intellectual property crimes related to deleting a Google email account and changing her banking password.

Hightman will appear in Campbell County District Court on March 28 at 3:30 p.m. to enter his change of plea, according to court documents filed Monday. Until now, Hightman has maintained his innocence on all charges.

Campbell County Attorney Nathan Henkes did not respond to a request for comment about the nature of Hightman’s plea deal. Likewise, neither Hightman or his public attorney, Dallas Lamb, responded to a request for comment.

Hightman’s change of plea comes less than two weeks before his 10-day jury trial was scheduled to begin. Hightman earlier was granted a continuance from a Feb. 6 trial date after having his pre-trial conference delayed twice.

Gakwa is considered by police to be missing under suspicious circumstances; her family reported her missing on March 20, 2022. She moved to Gillette with Hightman in July 2021.

Hightman has not been charged with any crimes related to Gakwa’s disappearance. But he is considered a “person of interest” and has been uncooperative in answering questions, according to a statement from the Gillette Police Department last May. 

Hightman contends that Gakwa left on her own volition last year after disappearing into a dark colored SUV with her belongings packed in two plastic bags.

Gakwa’s family has been notified about the change of plea, said her oldest brother, Kennedy Wainaina, who plans to attend the court proceeding. Wainaina told the Wyoming Truth that the family is resigned to the plea deal and just wants answers about what happened to their sister.

Hightman is currently out on a $10,000 cash bond and living in the couple’s Gillette home.

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