Murder of Daystar University student Mercy Jerono raises more questions

Mercy Jerono

Daystar University student Mercy Jerono who was stabbed in her hostel on September 9, 2023.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

Questions abound over the murder of a Daystar University student within the institution’s premises, with her family demanding answers.

Mercy Jerono, 18, was killed just four days after reporting for her first year studies at Daystar’s Athi River campus in Machakos County. She was stabbed in her hostel on September 9.

According to her family, the post-mortem report showed that she died of a 13-centimetre deep knife wound to the heart. It’s still unclear whether she died at Shalom Hospital, a nearby health facility where it is said that she was rushed to for medical attention.

On Saturday, villagers in Kapsait in Elgeyo Marakwet County were thrown into mourning as she was laid to rest. Family, friends, and local leaders called for a thorough probe into her murder.

On September 4, Jerono had reported for admission at the university where she had enrolled for a degree course in nursing. She was accompanied by her parents. Mr William Kanda, the family’s spokesperson, recounted Jerono’s last call to her mother, informing her that she did not want to attend a party thrown in honour of the new students. Instead, Jerono planned to travel back home that evening to spend the weekend with her family.

Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Wisley Rotich

Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Wisley Rotich (centre) addresses mourners during the burial of Mercy Jerono Kwambai, a first year student at Daystar University who was murdered at her Athi River campus hostel room on September 9, at their home in Kapsait, Elgeyo Marakwet County on September 16, 2023.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

“She did not manage to get a vehicle so she decided to stay. She spoke on the phone with her mother between 6pm and around 7pm,” Mr Kanda said.

At 2pm the next day, her mother received an urgent call telling her to go to the university as her daughter was in critical condition. Her mother, brother, and a neighbour rushed to the institution and were told she had been admitted to Shalom Hospital.

“They went to university and later to the health facility. No one wanted to speak to them. Later, they were told she had died,” Mr Kanda said. The family, he said still had “many questions because there were no police officers when she was rushed to hospital and this was reported as a suicide case.”

“We want to see the CCTV footage so that we can trace her last movements. It is surprising  that a whole university does not have security cameras.”

Prof Michael Bowen, the principal of Daystar’s Nairobi campus read a message of condolence on behalf of the vice-chancellor, Prof Laban Ayiro. He said the institution was determined to get justice for the deceased.

“We share our sympathies with the family. I want to assure you that we will do our best to ensure that the deceased gets justice,” said Prof Bowen.

He disclosed that detectives from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations had visited the institution last week.

Local leaders led by Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Wisely Rotich, Marakwet West MP Timothy Torotich, and Woman Representative Caroline Ngelechei also demanded justice for the family.

“We don’t know what happened and we want answers,” said Ms Ngelechei. Mr Torotich asked the police to expedite investigations into the murder.

“We want to be told who killed the university student. We are demanding answers and we will not rest until we know the truth,” stated Mr Torotich.

The lawmaker, who is a member of the National Assembly Committee on Education, said the House team could summon Prof Ayiro over the incident.

Governor Rotich appealed to Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu to issue security guidelines for both public and private institutions of higher learning to ensure the safety of students.

He also requested Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki and Interior Principal Secretary Raymond Omollo to ensure that those involved in the murder are brought to book.

“If we cannot trace the person who murdered this innocent student and disappeared then we will have failed as a country. We have lost a precious life, someone who would have graduated and come back to support her community,” said Mr Rotich.

The family described Jerono as jovial, kind, and loving. To honour her memory, 18 trees were planted at the burial site, to symbolise the years that she lived.