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Former student Michael Mutunga gets 30 years for killing Catholic priest lover

By Muriithi Mugo | Nov 11th 2021 | 4 min read

From right: Michael Muthini Mutunga, Kavivya Mwangangi and Solomon Mutava Wambua, when they appeared before Justice Lucy Njuguna, at Embu High Court. [Muriithi Mugo, Standard]

A 26-year-old man who confessed to killing a Catholic priest in Machakos in 2019 has been handed a 30-year jail sentence.

Michael Muthini Mutunga, who remained calm as Justice Lucy Njuguna of the High Court in Embu read out the sentence on Thursday, killed Father Michael Kyengo after accusing the priest of sodomising him.

The 43-year-old priest disappeared from his parent’s home in Tala, Matungulu in Machakos County, on October 5, 2019 only for his body to be recovered in a shallow grave on the seasonal River Mashamba in Mbeere South sub-county, Embu County, on October 16, 2019.

Mutunga had been arrested in Malindi town a week earlier while driving the slain priest’s car.

He later led the police to the house in Embu where Kyengo is believed to have been killed.

The police also recovered a knife, believed to have been used to kill the priest, from a pit latrine in the suspect’s home.

An autopsy conducted at Montezuma Monalisa Funeral Home in Machakos showed he died of stab wounds.

Mutunga, who was the main suspect, consequently helped the police to arrest his alleged accomplices, Solomon Mutava, 44, and Kavivya Mwangangi, 25.

Detectives said Mutunga told them he had been in an intimate relationship with the priest.

"The court has noted that the accused is a first offender. It has also considered the mitigation that he was remorseful......that he acted out of anger and grief," Justice Njuguna said.

Justice Njuguna  added: "He has asked the court to consider the reason he took the law into his own hands but there is no justification whatsoever for committing the offense even assuming the deceased had sodomised him. He ought not to have taken away the life of the deceased."

Before the ruling, state counsel Leah Mate submitted the pre-sentence report that showed the priest's immediate family was hurt by his death.

His mother and his three brothers, who suffer from down syndrome, relied on him entirely. 

The priest had also adopted a son who was in college at the time of his death. He too is part of the collateral damage, the court heard.

According to the report, the priest's family wanted the accused to serve his sentence before they can engage in any form of cultural negotiations, under Kamba customary law, for any form of amends and compensation. The judge considered that too.

Mutunga had asked for a non-custodial sentence but his conduct, the judge said, betrayed him.

"He unjustly enriched himself with the money he withdrew from the deceased's M-Pesa and bank account amounting to Sh400,000 within a few days. He also took possession of the deceased's motor vehicle for his own use without a caring," said the judge.

"This is a case where the accused deserves a deterrent sentence. He is sentenced to serve 30 years in prison," Justice Njuguna said.

At some point, the Early Childhood Development Education trainee raised his hand as the sentence was being pronounced, perhaps to say something, but lowered it after his lawyer advised him to do so.

The judge said while she considered Mutunga's mitigation that his action was prompted by a homosexual relationship the late priest, who worked at Thatha parish in Masinga, had forced him into, it was not enough reason to take the cleric's life.

Father Kyengo's mother Juliana Waiyua,76, with other members of the family sat pensively as the sentencing went on. They were joined by members of the Catholic church who had packed the courtroom.

Nicholas Machuki, a cousin to the late priest, said the family had accepted the court ruling.

Father Francis Maundu, of the Catholic Diocese of Machakos, said Kyengo's death affected the diocese and the entire Catholic fraternity.

He said the church was disturbed by the words used by the accused as to why he killed the priest.

"This has affected the church greatly since it takes over 10 years to prepare someone to be a priest. The late priest was the only healthy person in his family as his four brothers suffer from down syndrome," Maundu said after the sentencing.

The prosecution also successfully secured the release of exhibits recovered from Mutunga, including the late priest's motor vehicle, Sh50,150 in cash, and Rolex watch.

The case against Mwangangi and Mutava, the second and third accused respectively, will continue on November 17. 

Kyengo was buried on October 25 at Katoloni Pastoral Centre cemetery in Machakos in an emotional mass led by the then diocese bishop, Norman King’oo.

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