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Death sentence upheld for Meru resident who killed wife and one-month-old baby

By Fred Makana | July 18th 2016

KENYA: A piercing cry of anguish tore through the night on November 10, 2007, rousing Joseph Mwangi from his sleep.

Listening keenly, Mwangi realised the screams were coming from his neighbour John Mutuma's house. Mutuma lived with his wife and one-month-old daughter, just a stone's throw away in Gikuune Sub-location, Meru County.

A few minutes later, the howls of pain ended abruptly just as Mwangi reached the scene and started calling out Mutuma's name. There was no response.

Alarmed by the sudden silence, Mwangi rushed to Stanley Gatobu's house, Mutuma's father, who lived nearby and narrated the incident. When the duo went to Mutuma's house and called out his name, he muttered incoherent words and refused to open the door.

They then alerted area administrator Joseph Mwongera, who immediately accompanied them back. It was a few minutes to 2:00am when, on their way back, the trio met with Mutuma, ostensibly on his way to report the murder of his family.

"He declined to say what act he had committed in his house, only inviting us to go see for ourselves," Mwongera testified in court weeks later. On arrival, they found the child's lifeless body at the entrance. It had severe head injuries, seemingly inflicted with a blunt object. The infant's mother lay motionless on the floor. It would later emerge she died of injuries to the head and cervical spine.

Mutuma was arrested and taken to Githoyo Administration Police post before being booked at Kiriene Police Station. He was later arraigned before the High Court in Meru where he vehemently denied killing his daughter and wife.

He elected to give a sworn testimony when placed on his defence, saying on the night in question, he arrived home at about 8:30pm, left about half an hour later to see a friend and came back to find his wife and child murdered. He was, however, found guilty and sentenced to death but moved to the Court of Appeal in Nyeri insisting on his innocence.

The appellate bench comprising justices Roselyn Nambuye, Fatuma Sichale, and Patrick Kiage upheld the sentence on January 26, 2016.

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