Nathan Hightman, the American man accused of withdrawing and using money from the bank accounts of his missing Kenyan-born girlfriend without permission has pleaded not guilty to all charges leveled against him.
His attorney Steven Titus on Thursday said his client pleaded not guilty to all the four charges on Tuesday afternoon, according to County 17 News.
Hightman, 38, is considered a “person of interest” in the mysterious disappearance of 32-year-old Irene Gakwa, who was reported missing on March 20th this year.
Hightman, who was arrested on May 11th in Gillette, Wyoming, was charged with theft, credit card fraud, and crimes against intellectual property for allegedly using Irene’s credit, banking, and email information without permission.
He earlier told police 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 admitted to accessing Irene’s bank account and withdrawing money in an attempt to force her to contact him when she needed cash.
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.
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.
Irene’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.