CNN  — 

The family of a missing Wyoming woman, last seen a year ago, is imploring the state’s governor to help them find answers after months without apparent new leads in the case.

Gakwa’s family last saw her on a video call on February 24, 2022, and reported her missing about a month later. She was 32 at the time, and lived with the boyfriend, Nathan Hightman, in Gillette, Wyoming.

Gakwa moved from Kenya in May 2019 to attend nursing school in the Boise, Idaho, area, where her two older brothers live. She met Hightman on a Craigslist forum and moved to Gillette with him in July 2021.

He has not been charged in her disappearance.

A group formed to help find Irene Gakwa, last seen in February 2022, places signs with information about the missing woman in yards  in Gillette, Wyoming.

Gakwa’s relatives are preparing for Hightman’s financial crimes trial, scheduled to start April 3. They’re also struggling with many questions about why she vanished, her brother, Kennedy Wainaina, told CNN this week.

To mark the anniversary of when she was last seen, Wainaina and his cousin hand-delivered a letter and a change.org petition on Friday to Gov. Mark Gordon’s office at the state capitol in Cheyenne.

They traveled from Boise, Idaho, as much of the nation reels from a winter storm that dumped crippling amounts of snow and ice in northern states.

He said the journey was borne out of desperation.

“It’s been a long year for my family. Not knowing what happened to our sister … not a day goes by where we don’t think what happened to her? Does she need our help?” Wainaina said.

“If something bad happened to her, we need to know so we can come to terms with it and hopefully get some closure.”

Her phone sent unusual texts after she was last seen

For months, Gakwa’s family has sought answers about what happened to the nursing student who had dreams of working in an American hospital.

Brent Wasson, deputy police chief of the Gillette Police Department, said the investigation is ongoing. “We have no updates to share at this time,” Wasson told CNN in an email Thursday.

Wainaina said he and his cousin, Tarisai Githu, spent a few hours at the Wyoming state capitol Friday afternoon and met with state senators, along with representatives for Gillette. The governor was unavailable, Wainaina said, but they left the letter and petition with someone on his staff.

“State senators Eric Barlow and Lynn Hutchings sat down with us and listened to our story,” Githu told CNN. “We asked them to nudge the Gillette Police and the FBI to see if they have any information they can share with the family. We want to know – is the case cold? Is there something they know? They haven’t told us anything.”

In their letter to the governor, the family expressed frustration about the lack of information a year after Gakwa disappeared.

“This letter is to request your administration take steps in shedding light on the efforts made thus far in the search for Irene Gakwa,” it said.

A spokesperson for the governor said the family’s letter will be received in the same manner that all in-person correspondence is handled.

“The governor is aware of the case, and the highest levels of law enforcement are participating in the investigation, including the Wyoming Department of Criminal Investigation and the FBI,” said Michael Pearlman, the spokesperson.

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon is aware of Irene Gakwa's case, his spokesperson said, adding that "the highest levels of law enforcement are participating in the investigation."

Gakwa is the youngest of three siblings, and moved to the US with a green card to be closer to her two brothers. Their parents live in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi while her brothers have settled in a suburb of Boise.

Her family reported her missing to the Gillette Police Department on March 20, 2022, after they could not reach her for weeks via video calls, her favorite form of communication.

Most of the messages were in formal English, unlike the Kenyan slang she was known to use in previous messages, Wainaina said. That sparked red flags, leaving the family wondering if someone else was sending messages from her phone. The last message said she was moving to Texas before her phone went silent, he added.

Her boyfriend gave police his version of what happened

Hightman told police that Gakwa came home one night in late February, packed her clothing in two plastic bags and left in a dark-colored SUV, according to an affidavit of probable cause. He said he hadn’t seen or heard from her since.

CNN has called, texted and emailed Hightman, 39, several times, but he’s not responded.

In April, Gillette police issued a statement naming him “a person of interest” in his girlfriend’s disappearance, saying, “he has not made himself available to detectives” looking for answers.

Nathan Hightman is accused of financial crimes against Irene Gakwa. He has pleaded not guilty.

He has not been charged in her disappearance and has pleaded not guilty to the alleged financial crimes against her.

Court documents allege that between February and March, Hightman transferred nearly $3,700 from Gakwa’s bank account to his own and spent an additional $3,230 on her credit card. Hightman told investigators he withdrew the funds to force her to contact him when she ran out of money.

During searches at Hightman’s home investigators recovered a shovel and boots he had bought at a Walmart in late February last year using Gakwa’s Visa card, according to court documents.

Investigators have shared only cryptic leads

During an initial search of Hightman’s house, investigators recovered a shovel and boots he bought at a Walmart in February last year using Gakwa’s Visa card, court documents say.

Gillette police shared a few cryptic leads about Gakwa’s disappearance but have declined to provide additional details, citing ongoing investigations. They have said they’re seeking information about a 55-gallon metal drum, “which may have been burned and/or abandoned within the county.”

In April, they released a statement saying Gakwa may have been taken to a rural area, mine site or oil and gas location in a passenger vehicle or crossover SUV.

Lacey Ayers talks to Stacy Koester, left, and Melissa Bloxom as they place signs with an image of Irene Gakwa in a yard in Gillette, Wyoming. Gakwa lived next door with her boyfriend before her disappearance.

The next month, Gillette police said they were requesting information about “a 55-gallon metal drum, which may have been burned and/or abandoned within the county.” Over the past few months, a group of women in Gillette have led weekend search parties for the drum or any potential clues.

Stacy Koester, one of the volunteer searchers, delivered a similar petition to the Gillette City Council and the Gillette Police Department on Friday.

Investigators have also said they’re seeking information about a gray or silver Subaru Crosstrek with Idaho license plates that may have trespassed on private property between February 24 and March 20. The car is registered to Hightman.

Investigators have declined to provide additional details, citing ongoing investigations.

In October, various agencies, including the FBI, searched Hightman’s home. Gakwa’s family said they have not received information on the search or what – if anything – was found at the home that the couple shared.