An American man linked to the mysterious disappearance of his Kenyan-born girlfriend was last week arrested in Gillette, Wyoming.
Nathan Hightman, 38, is considered a “person of interest” in the disappearance of 32-year-old Irene Gakwa, who was reported missing on March 20th this year.
As reported by Oil City News, Hightman was arrested by officers from the Gillette Police Department on May 11th for multiple felonies, one for unlawfully using Gakwa’s credit card and two for crimes against her intellectual property since her disappearance.
County 17 news reported that Hightman was charged with theft, credit card fraud, and crimes against intellectual property for allegedly using her credit, banking, and email information without permission.
He reportedly told police in March that he had not seen nor heard from her since she announced that she was leaving Gillette and boarded a dark-colored SUV, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed in the case. The suspect said he accessed Irene’s bank account and withdrew the money to force her to contact him when she needed money.
Investigators executed a series of search warrants for Irene’s bank account, which showed that Hightman transferred a total $3,666.46 from her account in eight transactions and also changed her banking password.
Another search warrant executed on Irene’s email account showed the account password had been changed from a device with an IP address that detectives traced back to Hightman, per the affidavit.
The affidavit also stated that a warrant for one of her credit cards showed several charges totaling over $600, one of which occurred at Walmart for a shovel, a pair of boots, and a pair of pants that Hightman was seen carrying in a surveillance video of the transaction. The boots and shovel were later located at Hightman’s residence,
A separate warrant for another of Irene’s credit cards revealed a series of charges between February 25th and February 28th totaling $804, while another series of charges between March 1st and March 19th totaled $2,426.
About 10 transactions were traced back to Hightman’s IP address; none of them traced back to Irene’s phone IP address, according to the affidavit. The investigation also revealed that Irene’s email account had been accessed using Hightman’s IP address on March 10th and was closed.
Hightman made his initial appearance in Circuit Court on Wednesday where Judge Paul S. Phillips set his bond at $10,000 and scheduled a preliminary hearing for May 19th.
Investigators believe Irene, who has last seen on February 24th when she had a video call with her parents who live in Kenya, was taken to a rural area, mine site, or oil and gas location in a passenger vehicle or crossover SUV between February 24th and March 20th.
Detectives are asking the public for information concerning a gray or silver Subaru Crosstrek with Idaho license plates that may have been trespassing or appearing out of place in rural Converse County between those dates. They are also seeking information about a possible 55-gallon metal drum that may have been burned or abandoned in the county.
Anyone with information related to Irene’s disappearance is asked to contact the Gillette Police Department at (307) 682-5155. She is described as a Black woman who is 5-feet, 1inch tall, and weighing about 100 pounds.
Gakwa’s elder brother Kennedy Wainaina, who works as a pharmacist in Boise, Idaho, said Irene studied and worked in Idaho before meeting her boyfriend on an online dating website.
The two lived together in Idaho for about one and one-half years before the boyfriend suggested they move to Gillette in July last year and she agreed. Irene has lived in the US since 2019 and was a nursing student.