THE SEARCH FOR IRENE: Trial Date Set for Fiancé Accused of Financial Crimes

Missing woman’s family overjoyed to see legal proceedings scheduled

Nathan Hightman, 39, was arrested on May 4, 2022 for five felonies related to financial and intellectual property crimes against Irene Gakwa, who has been missing since late February. He's currently out on a $10,000 bail with a trial scheduled for April. (Courtesy photo from Campbell County Detention Center)

Special to the Wyoming Truth

GILLETTE, Wyo.—After multiple delays, legal proceedings against the fiancé of the missing Kenyan nursing student are moving forward with a trial date this spring.

The 10-day trial for Nathan Hightman is scheduled for April 3 in the Sixth District of Court in Campbell County, with District Judge James Michael Causey presiding, according to a filing on Jan. 13.

Hightman, 39, is accused of five felonies related to financial and intellectual property crimes against Irene Gakwa, 33, who mysteriously disappeared from the couple’s home in north Gillette in late February.

The alleged crimes include transferring over $3,600 from her bank account and maxing out her credit card in over 90 separate transactions, according to court documents.

Hightman also has been charged with two additional felonies in which he is accused of changing the password to Gakwa’s bank account and deleting her Google email account.

Hightman has pleaded not guilty to all charges and maintains that Gakwa left on her own accord one evening after entering a dark-colored SUV with her belongings packed in two plastic bags. He further told police that he accessed Gakwa’s accounts so that she would contact him, according to court documents.

Additionally, Hightman is considered a “person of interest” in Gakwa’s disappearance, police said. Neither Hightman nor his public defender Dallas Lamb responded to requests for comment.

Family to appear as witnesses in trial

Gakwa’s older brothers, Chris Gakwa and Kennedy Wainaina, are two of the 33 state witnesses scheduled to testify in Hightman’s trial.

Wainaina told the Wyoming Truth that both plan to be there and are thrilled to see Hightman’s trial on the books.

“Finally!” Wainaina wrote in a text message to the Wyoming Truth on Jan. 23. “It feels like we are finally getting somewhere.”

Both brothers made the 1,700-mile round trip from their home in Meridian, Idaho, to attend Hightman’s pretrial hearing on Jan. 4.

Wainaina also was pleased that, at least for now, the trial will remain in Campbell County.

During Hightman’s pretrial hearing, his public defender Dallas Lamb and Campbell County Attorney Nathan Henkes discussed moving the trial out-of-town given the extensive coverage Hightman’s case has garnered in local and national media in recent months.

Office staff at the district attorney’s office confirmed that no venue change has been submitted as of Jan. 23.

Henkes did not return a request for comment.

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