Blood relatives: Man linked with deaths of four family members

Duncan Murithi

Duncan Murithi during a previous appearance at the Meru High Court. He is currently on trial for the murder of her sister Naomi Karea on December 30, 2022.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Duncan Murithi lived in his elder sister Naomi Karea's home in 1998 before she assisted him to join college where he graduated as a primary school teacher.

Luke Mwongera, Karea's husband said they lived happily as a family under the same roof, only for the relationship to turn sour when his brother-in-law secured a job.

How Mr Murithi turned out to be a suspected serial killer was shocking to the family that is now testifying against him for the alleged brutal murder of his sister. Over the last 15 years, he is also suspected to have killed four other members of his family including his brother.

The trial kicked off at the Meru High Court with Mr Mwongera, his daughter Mona Mwende, 22 and son who is a minor testifying against Mr Murithi. In their testimony, Ms Mwende and the minor told court they witnessed the shocking incident at their Kariene home in Imenti Central.

Justice Thrispisa Cherere heard that Mr Murithi, in the company of another man, not in court, allegedly murdered Karea on the evening of December 30, 2022.

Arrows laced with poison

Witnesses narrated how the suspect stormed Karea’s home at around 7.30pm after the family dinner and committed the heinous act by slashing her with a panga and piercing her with arrows laced with poison.

The minor who was 11 years old then was the first to notice all was not well.

“The men told me to shut my mouth otherwise they would hurt me...I went to my aunt’s house and alerted her that my mom was in danger,” he told the court.

In her testimony, Ms Mwende said when she heard her mother screaming in the sitting room, she peeped through the door at the corridor and saw Mr Murithi holding a panga over her head.

“He was wearing a brown jacket…I have known Mr Murithi for long since he is my uncle and I could identify him. When I saw him strike my mother, I ran through the backdoor and screamed calling neighbours to come to our rescue,” she said, tears welling in her eyes.

It was during this commotion that Mr Mwongera who had retired to bed was jolted awake, took a panga and rushed to the sitting room to rescue his wife.

“I found the other man holding my wife by the throat while Mr Murithi stabbed her pierced her in the stomach with the arrows as he held a panga in his left hand. It happened so fast and when he turned and saw me he ran out leaving the arrows behind,” he said.

Distress call

Neighbours narrated how after they responded to the distress call, they found Karea on the floor in a pool of blood.

“She was writhing in pain and when I asked her what had happened, she said, ‘it is my brother Murithi who has done this to me...he wants to kill me. I am dying…’ But I told her she would survive. Unfortunately, she was pronounced dead on arrival at Consolata Nkubu Hospital,” said Josphat Mwaki, a neighbour who took her to hospital in his vehicle.

Mr Mwongera’s cousin, Franklin Ndereba who witnessed the postmortem testified that Karea had stab wounds all over the body with the pathologist saying she died due to lack of oxygen and excessive bleeding.

Samuel Maina Nderitu, deputy OCS Kariene Police Station said when the matter was reported, he sent officers who processed the scene of crime. He testified that when he conducted an identification parade on February 18, 2023, Mr Mwongera, Ms Mwende and the minor positively identified Mr Murithi.

However, the suspect’s lawyer put Ms Mwende, Mr Mwongera and Mr Mwaki to task on why the words “Murithi has killed me” they claimed Karea uttered before she breathed her last were not in the police statements, saying the phrase had been introduced as an afterthought.

“You wrote the statement three days after the incident yet you could not recall these words? I put it to you that these words came from the police,” he told Mr Mwongera.

Asked by prosecutor Rita Rotich what the cause of the bad blood between Mr Murithi and his wife was, Mr Mwongera said it emanated from an unfulfilled promise when Mr Murithi faced another murder charge.

“My wife stood bond for him and the deal was that when Mr Murithi was released, he would give her half an acre of his land. But he refused and started plotting how to eliminate her,” Mr Mwongera said.

In March this year when Justice Cherere denied Mr Murithi bond, the judge ruled that the prosecution’s opposition to the suspect’s bail was merited and remanded him until the suit is heard and determined.

While opposing the bail, his elder brother Samuel Muthengi swore an affidavit detailing a series of murders that have occurred in the family over the past 15 years, which they suspected were executed by Mr Murithi.

Murdered in cold blood

The prosecution argued that the suspect was likely to interfere with witnesses and alleged he did so when he was charged with his brother’s murder in 2008, and that his safety was not guaranteed citing animosity against him in his village.

The then investigating officer Joshua Sila in a sworn affidavit said releasing the suspect on bond would prejudice the search for other suspects who were still at large.

“The respondent is known to be brutal, experienced serial killer believed to be armed and ready to commit similar offence operating within Kwale County and Marimanti in Tharaka Nithi County,” Mr Sila said in papers filed in court.

Mr Muthengi said in 2008, Mr Murithi was charged with the murder of their brother John Mugao which occurred in December 2007 but the case was eventually withdrawn.

In 2009, Mr Mugao’s wife- Mary Kabura was murdered in cold blood under unclear circumstances.

“I was a witness in the murder case HCCRI 59/2008 and while out on bond he threatened and harassed us. We vowed to attend court when the deceased’s wife was killed after she and Mr Murithi had a bitter argument over the case,” Mr Muthengi said in his affidavit.

According to Mr Sila, Murithi was charged with Mr Mugao’s murder in 2008 and not 2007 when it was committed as he had escaped to Juba, South Sudan.

Another case Mr Sila cited was that of the mysterious death of Mr Daniel Njagi in 2014, which he said the suspect must have had a hand in.

Mr Njagi, a cousin to Murithi had just bought a piece of land from the later when differences between the two arose. He was shot dead under unclear circumstances.

When their mother Elizabeth Nkimu went missing in Kwale County on March 28, 2015, Mr Muthengi said they looked for her in vain, adding that she had gone to the coast after Mr Murithi invited her to live with his family.

To date, she has never been found with the family pointing an accusing finger at Mr Murithi saying he eliminated her after she accused him of perpetrating the murders.

In her ruling, Justice Cherere said having considered the application and due to the many allegations leveled against him, the court was in no doubt that the suspect should not be released on bond.

“You will remain in custody during the trial but you will be free to renew your application for bond in the course of the trial,” she ruled.

The hearing resumes on September 18, with the pathologist who conducted the post mortem among those expected to testify.