Search continues for missing Gillette woman
April 28, 2022
GILLETTE — Just about every day at about 5 p.m., Kennedy Wainaina waits on a phone call.
Ever since his sister, Irene Wairimu Gakwa, went missing from Gillette in February or March, he has stayed in close contact with the Gillette police detectives working to solve his sister’s disappearance.
After Wainaina talks with detectives each night, he calls his mother and father in Kenya, who also have grown accustomed to waiting by the phone.
“They’re in rough shape, especially my mom,” he said. “My dad maybe hides it well but my mom, I can tell she’s definitely having a hard time. [Irene] used to talk to them almost every other day.”
Gakwa, 32, was reported missing on March 20 and last heard from March 4. Since then, officers have asked the public in help finding any information that could be related to Gakwa’s disappearance.
The investigation so far has suggested that Gakwa went missing under suspicious circumstances. She was last seen Feb. 24 on a video call with her parents, who live in Kenya.
Last week, the police department announced in a press release that it has a lead in the investigation. One tip indicated that Gakwa may have been taken in a passenger car to a rural area, mine site or oil and gas location between Feb. 24 and March 20.
This week, Police Deputy Chief Brent Wasson said that detectives are continuing to follow up on leads and the information they have. There is no new information to release to the public at this time, and the investigation remains ongoing, he said.
The department has confirmed that Gakwa lived with a man in Gillette up until her disappearance. He is considered a person of interest and has not made himself available to detectives looking to resolve questions that exist in the investigation, Wasson said.
Detectives have executed about two dozen search warrants in their search and interviewed Gakwa’s friends and associates. Digital evidence, such as location data, has been analyzed and provided positive leads, the press release said.
Gakwa is a Black woman who is 5-foot-1 and about 100 pounds.
Wainaina said the public has been helpful and supportive throughout the process, helping his family do what they can to spread awareness of their sister’s disappearance.
“I’m amazed at how much strangers are doing to help us,” he said. “It’s amazing.”
Wainaina and his brother, Chris Gakwa, 38, both live in Boise, Idaho. They made the 800-mile drive to Gillette early into their sister’s disappearance and continue to follow it from afar.
Almost two months since they last saw their sister, the reality of their family’s situation is still hard to grasp.
In this day and age when so many digital records through cellphones and credit cards make it hard for anyone to slip off the grid, Wainaina said it’s hard to fathom how his sister vanished with so little trace.
“Sometimes you feel like maybe you’re just dreaming,” he said. “Like especially at night. Sometimes I’ll go to bed, sleep, and wake up and be like, ‘Was I dreaming, was she missing?
“‘Was I dreaming or was it real life?’”