Naftali Kinuthia has a case to answer on the killing of Ivy Wangeci, court rules

Slain Moi University student Ivy Wangeci. [File, Standard]

Naftali Kinuthia, the key suspect in the killing of Moi University medical student Ivy Wangeci three years ago, has a case to answer, the court has ruled.

Justice Stephen Githinji, who delivered the ruling virtually on Tuesday, December 6, while sitting at the High Court of Malindi, directed that Kinuthia be placed on his defence in March 2023.

The judge, who has presided over the matter since its inception, said that the decision had been reached after considering the prosecution case and the testimonies of several witnesses.

“I have concluded that the accused has a case to answer. He is accordingly placed on his defence,” ruled the judge.

Kinuthia’s advocate Wokabi Mathenge told the court that the defence team had no witnesses and would only take one day to complete its case.

Kinuthia, 33, allegedly hacked Wangeci twice on the head using an axe outside Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH), on the morning of April 9, 2019.

He denied murder charges when he was arraigned before the court three years ago, and has been held at the Eldoret GK remand prison since his arrest.

When the prosecution closed its case in June, a detective told the court that Kinuthia had confessed to hacking the student with an axe.

Former Deputy DCIO Joshua Shoka told the court he had recorded Kinuthia’s statement after the incident that led to the death of the sixth-year medical student.

He told the court that he had stated in his statement that he knew the deceased since they were primary schoolmates.

He narrated that Kinuthia had claimed that after high school, they got into an intimate relationship and that while he was working in Nairobi, he would visit the deceased at university and sometimes support her financially.

“Kinuthia said that he catered for the deceased’s birthday parties and on the fateful day, he had travelled to Eldoret to attend her birthday party scheduled for April 10, 2019,” stated the detective.

Naftali Kinuthia in the holding cells at the Eldoret High Court before his case was mentioned on April 15, 2019. [File, Standard]

Kinuthia had also recorded in his statement that prior to the birthday party, his ‘girlfriend’ had informed him that the party would cost Sh28,000.

“He said that he had sent Ivy Sh14,000 and had the remaining amount, which he wanted to give to her once he arrived,” stated the detective.

Kinuthia would then arrive in Eldoret on the morning of April 9, 2019. This was a day before Ivy’s birthday and the day she lost her life at the age of 25.

The court heard that he drove straight to Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH) after the deceased failed to pick up his calls.

“While waiting, he saw the deceased in the company of another man. He imagined that she did not pick up the call because she was sleeping with the man,” the court heard.

The detective added, “He (Kinuthia) became very annoyed and went to his car which he had parked at the hospital’s emergency section and picked an axe that he used to attack the deceased.”

Mr Shoka claimed that Kinuthia added that he came to his senses while in the hospital, where he was told that Ivy had died.

The detective told the court that Kinuthia had signed his statement and his advocate was present during the recording of the statement.

“I am providing the caution which was given to the accused person before he recorded his statement showing that he did so out of his free will and was not forced or pressured by anybody,” stated Mr Shoka.

The investigating officer Lucky Sanga, who was at the time of the incident the DCIO of Naiberi police station, recounted that he had been informed by his boss about the murder incident outside MTRH.

He told the court that he went to the hospital’s emergency section and found Kinuthia, who had been hospitalised after he was attacked by members of the public.

Mr Sanga provided exhibits which were collected at the scene, linking Kinuthia to the scene of the crime.

Among the exhibits were a blood-stained axe, a knife, a gunny sack, a phone and blood-stained clothes belonging to both the deceased and the accused as well as Kinuthia’s personal identification documents.

Chief Inspector George Aringo from the Cybercrime and digital forensics laboratory at the DCI headquarters in Nairobi also presented a 417 paged document containing communication messages between Kinuthia and Ivy between 2018 to the date of her murder.

Before the hearing of the case, Kinuthia had through his lawyer written to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (ODPP) seeking a plea bargain.

He stated that he was ready to plead guilty to a lesser charge of manslaughter, but the request was turned down by the prosecution and the court twice.

The defence hearing is slated for March 3, 2023.