Photo: Getty Images
  /  09.06.2022

Irene Gakwa has not been seen by her family since Feb. 24. Her parents grew worried after learning the 32-year-old met a new boyfriend in the United States on Craigslist after moving from Kenya. In a story from Sunday (Sept. 4), her father Francis Kambo told CNN that Gakwa spoke to her parents almost daily, but “now [he doesn’t] know if [he’ll] ever see her again.”

Kambo told the outlet that during their last WhatsApp video chat, Gakwa seemed off. While she did show her face on the screen, her family says she looked skinnier than usual and tired. They added that her hair, which was usually braided, was disheveled. “Make sure you drink hot milk and relax,” Kambo said during the call. The following month, her parents reported her missing.

Gakwa’s family later learned that she’d met a man on Craigslist and moved in with him in Gillette, Wyoming. Authorities revealed that the man Gakwa lived with was accused of deleting her email account, changing passwords, taking money from her bank account and maxing out her credit cards. While speaking with CNN, Kambo noted that Gakwa is his only daughter. “She’s always been a daddy’s girl,” he said. “She was supposed to come home for Christmas this year. I was going to buy that ticket myself for her to come if she couldn’t afford it,” he added.

Her oldest brother shared that before her disappearance, Gakwa’s text messages were strange. Instead of the 32-year-old mixing Swahili and Kenyan slang as she usually would, family members said it seemed as though someone was using Google Translate to send the messages. After reaching out to Gakwa’s friends, her family found out about the boyfriend she’d met on Craigslist. He was identified as 39-year-old Nathan Hightman.

Officers questioned Hightman the same day Gakwa went missing for a separate criminal case. The Craigslist boyfriend told authorities that he last saw her in late February when she stopped by to gather her belongings and that she left in a dark-colored SUV. Hightman has since been considered a person of interest in her disappearance.

Gillette police detective Dan Stroup said, “We believe he has information pertaining to the disappearance of Irene, but he has elected not to provide that information to law enforcement at this time.” Hightman has a pretrial conference in connection to her disappearance scheduled for November.

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