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A secret love affair, a dead university student and a 60-year prison term

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Beverly Akinyi, a student at Kenyatta University who was brutally murdered in Kisumu by Joseph Ayomo, the step-brother of her lover.

Photo credit: Pool

This is a tale of three families bound by love and good neighbourliness but shattered by a murder incident that completely changed their relationship.

It is one week after a Kisumu court sentenced 30-year-old Joseph Ayomo to 40 years in prison for the murder of a Kenyatta University student, Beverly Akinyi.

The 21-year-old Akinyi was the girlfriend of Evans Aloyo Otieno, Ayomo’s stepbrother. 

Evans Aloyo Otieno outside the Kisumu Law Courts on April 3, 2024.

Photo credit: Rushdie Oudia | Nation Media Group

Before last week’s sentencing, Ayomo was already serving a 20-year jail term after a court found him guilty of attempted murder.

Ayomo stabbed his stepbrother, Aloyo, 21 times before slitting his throat. Miraculously, Aloyo survived the deadly attack.

But the July 24, 2018 incident and the six-year-long court process turned out to be a nightmare for the two stepfamilies and that of the deceased.

During the entire period that the case dragged on in court, the families of Ayomo and Aloyo kept away from each other. A strong bond that had held the two families together for two decades had suddenly been broken after the murder of Beverly.

Nation.Africa has established that the families first met in the early 1990s as neighbours in Makogilo Estate in the sprawling informal settlements of Manyatta in Kisumu.

Aloyo had not even joined primary school then.

The convict, Ayomo, is the fourth born in a family of six, while Aloyo is an only child of his mother, the first wife of the late James Otieno. Otieno died in 1996 and left behind a united polygamous family.

As Aloyo explained, even though Ayomo was his stepbrother, he still supported him with his two siblings in Nairobi.

The two wives of the late Otieno, Dolly Achieng and her co-wife, Mary Otieno, also lived in harmony.

After the death of their husband, Dolly - a shrewd businesswoman - started a hardware shop for Mary in Wang’arot, Seme Sub-County.

But interviews with members of the two families, including Mary, revealed simmering tensions and animosity due to competition for property. 

Mary Otieno, mother of Joseph Ayomo who was jailed for 40 years for killing university student Beverly Akinyi before turning against his brother Evans Aloyo.

Photo credit: Rushdie Oudia | Nation Media Group

During the court proceedings, Dolly and her son, Aloyo, kept off their rural home until December last year.

Each time the two factions met at the High Court in Kisumu, they did not exchange pleasantries or eye contact as one would have expected.

Inside the courtroom, they chose to sit on opposite sides of the aisle. At the end of a session, one camp would wait for the other party to leave the courtroom to avoid running into each other in the corridors.

When Judge Roselyn Aburili delivered the 40-year-imprisonment sentence to Ayomo, son of Mary, she looked down at the courtroom floor while her daughter Violet covered her face as she shed tears.

The curse of a deadly family feud had sent her son to prison, so she believed.

Aloyo confirmed the murder incident had changed his relationship with his stepbrother and the rest of the family. For him, it was betrayal, ungratefulness and many unanswered questions.

“This is a person I helped when he was young, bought him shoes and brought him back to Kisumu in 2009. I took him in and to date I do not understand why he did what he did,” said Aloyo.

The businessman said the incident changed everything in the family, and efforts to handle the matter out of court failed over suspicion.

“We explored the possibility of handling this matter differently as a family, but some of my siblings insisted that we proceed to court. Definitely there was and there is still some tension between us as a family since many questions have remained unanswered,” said Aloyo.

The late Otieno was a wealthy man with interests in real estate. He owned property across the country, which included rental houses in Manyatta, Nyalenda, Sky Way, Siaya and Ringa in Homa Bay.

After the judgment, Mary attributed the court case to a protracted property row between the two families.

She maintained that Ayomo did not kill Beverly or attack his stepbrother.

“My son was sentenced unfairly. This is pure witch-hunt and a case of a family feud fueled property row. My children and I have been denied control over my late husband’s property. Evidence presented before the court showed clearly that my son was nowhere near the murder scene. We are going to appeal this decision,” said Ms Otieno.

When Nation.Africa asked if there was an element of a fight over property control, which could have led to his attack and the killing of Beverly, Aloyo questioned why his stepmother had never brought that up during the proceedings.

But while the two protagonists continue their tirade of accusations and counterattacks, one woman has even more questions than answers.

Caren Anyona is yet to understand how her only daughter could lose her life in the hands of the people she grew up with, trusted and was very fond of. 

Caren Anyona during a past court session. Her daughter Beverly Akinyi was murdered by Joseph Ayomo.

Photo credit: Rushdie Oudia | Nation Media Group

Anyona and her daughter Beverly lived across the fence from Dolly’s family since the early 1990s.

She recalls how even after completing his university studies and starting a successful business in Kisumu, Ayolo would still return to Makogilo to visit his mother.

Anyona moved to Elgon Estate on Kibos Road, and she was the one who alerted Aloyo of a vacant house in the same estate when the businessman was looking for one.

That is when he met Beverly, whom he fondly referred to as Cassie, and their love life blossomed, though in secret.

Aloyo stayed here briefly before moving to Aliwa Estate next to Car Wash, where Beverly would later meet her death.

Anyona painfully narrated to the court how she only came to learn of her daughter’s relationship with Aloyo when she learnt of her murder.

“I knew my daughter was at Kenyatta University at the time of her death. I didn't even know that the two were in a relationship and she never alerted me that she was in Kisumu. I just wish she would have informed me of her presence in Kisumu, maybe she would have been alive today,” said Anyona.

She told Nation.Africa how her child’s murder left her traumatised and caused her health condition to deteriorate, developing ulcers and high blood pressure in the process.

She told the court how she raised her daughter single-handedly and that Beverly had promised to build her a house upon completing her university education and getting a job.

The judge indicated that Ayomo had not shown any remorse for the crimes he committed and didn't show sympathy to the deceased’s family.

This is what angered Anyona. She accused Ayomo’s family, whom she had known for decades, of not apologising and showing sympathy for what happened.

“I feel sad that it is the same family I have been close to and which we shared a lot of things that took my daughter’s life,” said Anyona.

While she was relieved that justice, though delayed, had been served, she still wishes that the court handed her daughter’s killer a harsher sentence.

As it stands, it is not clear whether Beverly’s death was premeditated or if she was collateral damage to a long-standing family feud.