Irene Gakwa has been missing since March 2022. The aunt, sister, and daughter moved to America from Kenya in 2019 to join her brothers and work towards her dreams of being a nurse. She studied nursing at the College of Western Idaho.
Gakwa, who is the youngest of three children, also helped her brother, Christopher, and his wife with their boys while working in a group home to take care of the elderly.
“She is so good with kids and older people and is very patient and caring,” according to a statement from loved ones on the website Where Is Irene. “Irene always had good advice to her nieces and nephews and a witty comment or joke for any situation.”
Now, her family wonders if they will ever hear her jokes and good advice again. They’re asking anyone with information about her whereabouts to come forward.
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The Last Time Irene Was Seen
According to a GoFundMe Page set up to help locate Gakwa, she was last seen by her family on Feb. 24, 2022, on a video call. Loved ones believe she moved to Gillette, Wyoming, from Boise, Idaho, to be her boyfriend at the time.
“Although she was very independent, her family and friends became very concerned after not hearing from her and unusual responses to attempts to contact her,” a statement from the GoFundMe reads.
Christopher decided to report her missing after receiving text message replies from her phone that weren’t in her native tongue.
“Before I went to bed, I just decided to text her, ‘Hey, how are you doing? It’s been a while. I haven’t talked to you. How is everything? How is school?'” he tells KTVB 7.
“She texts me back, but everything was in English,” Christopher says. “She said she was good and that school was going well. And that she was thinking about changing her number. And that didn’t make any sense.”
None of that made sense because she usually responded to his texts in Swahili, and changing her number would be odd since they are all on a family plan.
The Boyfriend Is A Person Of Interest
Gillette Police Department says her live-in-boyfriend, Nathan J, Hightman, is a person of interest in her disappearance.
He’s been charged with multiple felonies for allegedly stealing money from her accounts.
One of the brothers, Kennedy, learned she was living with Hightman after scanning phone records since they were on the same plan. According to her family, the pair had been in an on-and-off relationship since 2020, but they didn’t know they were back together.
Hightman told police he had last seen her in February after she backed her things in two plastic bags before leaving their home.
He’s now facing fraud charges after transferring $3,700 from her bank account into his and charging an additional $3,230 on one of her credit cards.
Hightman is also reportedly being charged with crimes related to intellectual property for deleting Gakwa’s email account and changing her bank passwords after the date he claims she went missing.
NAMUS describes Gakwa as 5’1,” weighing about 89 pounds.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Gillette Police Department at 1-307-682-5155.