THE SEARCH FOR IRENE: Multiple Agencies Return for Second Search of the Fiancé’s Home of Missing Gillette Resident

Local police secure warrants to follow-up on tip

Multiple law enforcement agencies conducted an investigation at the home of Nathan Hightman in Gillette Thursday. Hightman is considered a "person of interest" in the disappearance of Irene Gawka, 33, who has been missing since February under suspicious circumstances. (Wyoming Truth photo by Jennifer Kocher)

By Jennifer Kocher

Special to the Wyoming Truth

This story has been updated from earlier today with new information.

GILLETTE, Wyo.—The Gillette Police Department and FBI spent nearly eight hours searching the house of the fiancé of the missing Gillette resident on Thursday after securing warrants to investigate evidence tied to the case.  

Irene Gawka, 33, has been missing under suspicious circumstances since late February after moving to Gillette last summer with her fiancé, 38-year-old Nathan Hightman. Hightman has since been charged with five felonies related to Gakwa’s disappearance, including stealing money from her bank accounts and changing her internet passwords. He is considered by police to be a “person of interest” in her disappearance.  

Law enforcement officers are seen carrying boxes out of the Gillette house Nathan Hightman shared with his fiancee, Irene Gakwa, after securing warrants to investigate evidence tied to her disappearance. (Wyoming Truth photo by Jennifer Kocher)

The couple’s house on Pathfinder Drive in northern Campbell County was cordoned off with tape. More than six vehicles were parked in front of the residence all day, including the Gillette Police Department, Search and Rescue and a Campbell County Mobile Command Unit.  

“Analysis of evidence has led to the development of additional cause to return to the residence that Irene shared with Nathan Hightman,” according to a statement from the Gillette Police Department. “Detectives applied for and were granted additional search warrants to further the investigation.” 

Police were seen carrying several small cardboard boxes and plastic grocery bags from Hightman’s house. They declined to comment on whether Hightman was home at the time.  

FBI evidence response team agents spent nearly eight hours investigating Nathan Hightman’s house Thursday, carrying out multiple boxes as well as FedEx shipping containers. (Wyoming Truth photo by Jennifer Kocher)

Three cadaver dog handlers were seen entering and exiting the house multiple times. FBI agents also carried in lights and other equipment, and they spent considerable time looking for evidence in the garage.  

The Gillette Police had earlier searched Hightman’s home as part of their initial investigation and confirmed that Thursday’s activity is related to Gakwa’s disappearance.  

Stacy Koester, the Gillette resident who has been leading community searches for Gakwa since early June, stood outside Hightman’s house and shared the latest news with Gakwa’s father in Kenya via a FaceTime call.  

“It’s wonderful,” Francis Kamboh exclaimed upon hearing about the second house search. “We are going to get answers.”  

Hightman has pleaded not guilty to the five felonies against Gakwa and is scheduled for his pre-trial conference on Nov. 3. 

Anyone with information about Irene Gakwa is asked to contact the Gillette Police Department at (307) 682-5155.

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