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Irene Gakwa: Found or Missing? The Search Continues

The documentary “Never Seen Again” from Paramount+ aims to solve the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Irene Gakwa, a 32-year-old Kenyan woman. In late February 2022, while visiting her boyfriend in Gillette, Wyoming, she mysteriously vanished. The victim’s family and the authorities still have many unanswered questions despite the fact that it has been almost a year since she is said to have vanished. Here is what we know if you’re curious to learn more.

What Happened To Irene Gakwa?

Irene Gakwa was born and reared in Kenya. According to her relatives, she was a shy young girl who enjoyed spending time by herself or with her parents, Francis and Joyce Gakwa. Irene, the youngest of the three children, got along well with both of her older brothers despite having a five-year age difference between them all. Through challenging transformations and life phases, they were able to maintain their closeness and support one another morally. Francis recalled how the family came together to spend Christmas as a unit.

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In addition to cherishing her relationship with her parents and valuing her independence, Irene has always taken good care of them. Irene agreed with the Gakwas that their family was always their top concern. Irene told her parents in 2019 that she want to relocate to the United States to pursue a job in healthcare, but they objected because she is an introvert. When their “shy” daughter “barely left her room in their suburban Nairobi home to go outside,” the parents were concerned about how she would settle in such a foreign place.

Francis remembered, “We occasionally had to remind her to get outside and enjoy the sunshine. But we reasoned, “Why not? Her brothers are there. In order to be closer to her brothers, Irene immigrated to the United States in May 2019 and settled in Idaho. She resided in Meridian with Chris Munga, the youngest of her brothers, and Gyoice Abatey, his wife, with the goal of attending nursing school and working at a hospital. She and her sister-in-law Gyoice grew close, and in 2020, the two of them went on a girls’ trip to Los Angeles.

Irene confessed in Gyoice about dating Nathan “Nate” J. Hightman while they were out shopping, dining, and visiting beaches. She did, however, divulge much of information about their romance. While remaining with them, she assisted her brother and sister-in-law with the children and worked in a group home for the elderly. She was characterised by Gyoice as a kind, vivacious person who enjoyed cooking, shopping and watching Nigerian films. She began each morning with a cup of tea. She had a caustic sense of humour and could always come up with a clever remark.

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Kennedy Wainaina, Irene’s older brother, claimed she attended the College of Western Idaho and “did well.” “It was a little different when she first moved here,” Kennedy continued. She needed some time to adjust to everything. However, it was encouraging to see her have fun and make new friends. Before she met her fiancé, Nate, Kennedy and Chris, two Idaho residents, claimed they saw their sister almost every weekend. Chris allegedly stated, “I feel like Nate is the one who kind of pushed her away from the family.”

Irene relocated to Gillette, Wyoming with Nate in July 2021 without telling her family because she had just met him. While in Gilette, she had been pursuing her nursing degree at Gilette College. Nearly every day, she would video contact her parents, but after February 24, 2022, she stopped. The last time anyone in her family saw her was during the WhatsApp video call, which featured subtle robbery. On March 20, 2022, the 32-year-old’s brothers reported her missing after she apparently avoided their video chats and ceased messaging even after March 9.

Is Irene Gakwa Dead Or Alive?

Irene’s brothers asserted that they had only recently met Nate and denied knowing how long the two had been dating or that she had travelled more than 700 miles to Gillette to live with him. Chris said, “I just didn’t like him from the moment I met him, but I never told her. He just seemed troublesome to me. He claimed their relationship was problematic and that Irene constantly called Gyoice to discuss various matters. Irene allegedly informed the boys that she was relocating to Arizona for a warmer environment.

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The brothers said that they hadn’t seen their sister since the Thanksgiving of 2021. Late in February, Irene stopped video conferencing with them and began messaging them in English rather than the Swahili and Kenyan slang she usually employs, which aroused the family’s suspicion. The brothers searched through her phone records to get in touch with a close friend after they were unable to reach their sister. The three siblings share a cell phone family plan. They then discovered she had been residing in a modest three-bedroom home in Gillette with her boyfriend.

Irene reportedly offered flimsy justifications to avoid any video chats ever since her previous one with her family on February 24. On March 8, her WhatsApp account was erased, followed two days later by her phone number. On March 20, when they reported her missing, a policeman contacted Nate the same day. He admitted to the police that he last saw Irene in late February, according to an affidavit of probable cause in a related but unrelated criminal case against him. He claimed that she arrived to his house one evening, packed her belongings, and drove away in a dark SUV.

Irene’s brothers allegedly asked Nate to turn up her belongings despite the fact that he said he had not heard from her since. Kennedy stated that despite their requests, he refused to provide them her identification, including her Kenyan passport. After witnesses alerted authorities to a grey or silver Subaru Crosstrek with Idaho licence plates — resembling his car — in April 2022, Nate was declared a person of interest. Between the time she was last seen and when she was reported missing, the strange car was spotted in Campbell County on rural or private property.

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Following Irene’s disappearance, Kennedy stated that the police also obtained information concerning Nate’s neighbours apparently witnessing him burn something in a 55-gallon metal oil drum in his backyard. The cops continue to ask for help from the public in their search for a drum that looks similar, but they were unable to validate the claim. On May 10, 2022, at around 3:30 pm, the Gillette Police Department detained Nate on suspicion of two felonies for stealing, one felonious for using a credit card without authorization, and two felonies for crimes against intellectual property.

After she vanished, he changed her online bank password and took $3,700, spent $3,230 on her credit card. Nate, then 39, pled guilty to one felony count each of theft, improper use of a credit card, and crimes against intellectual property in March 2023 despite not being charged with Irene’s disappearance. He received a term of three to six years and was also had to pay fines and reparations of $13,200. Irene’s friends and family are still looking for her, holding search parties and frequently contacting the authorities with new information.

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