GILLETTE (WNE) — Nathan J. Hightman will await his sentencing hearing from jail after pleading guilty to three of the five felonies accusing him of financial crimes against his fiancé, Irene Gakwa, who has been missing from Gillette since last February.
Hightman, 39, pleaded guilty Tuesday afternoon to felony counts of theft, unlawful use of a credit card and crimes against intellectual property for taking $3,666.46 from Gakwa’s bank account, charging $3,230.65 to two of her credit cards and deleting her Gmail account without permission.
In exchange for Hightman’s cold pleas, he and his defense attorney, Dallas Lamb, and County Attorney Nathan Henkes, the prosecutor on the case, can argue for any sentencing up to the maximum allowed for each count.
The maximum sentence for each of the theft and unlawful use of a credit card convictions is up to 10 years in prison, a $10,000 fine or both. The maximum for the crimes against intellectual property count he was convicted of is three years in prison and/or a $3,000 fine.
Gakwa was last heard from on a video call with family on Feb. 25, 2022. The investigation into Gakwa’s disappearance began a day later, March 20. The crimes Hightman pleaded guilty to occurred between Feb. 26 and March 19 of the same year.
Hightman has been named a person of interest in the police investigation into Gakwa’s disappearance but has not been charged in connection to it.
The investigation into her disappearance is ongoing.
The change of plea removes the need for the 10-day trial that was scheduled to begin April 3.
When considering what to do with Hightman’s bond, the main questions were of whether he was a flight risk or a danger to the community.
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