Gospel music fans in the Mt Kenya region are yet to come to terms with the news that singer Samuel Mathenge Mwaniki, popularly known as Sammy Boy, is serving life imprisonment at the Naivasha Maximum Security Prison after he was convicted of robbery with violence on December 5, 2021.
Boy was convicted to death by hanging after he was found guilty of the offence.
"But since nowadays our system does not executes convicts, the sentence is life imprisonment," he says.
"God! That is sad. I was not in the know. What happened? I’m sincerely sorry for that. May God be with him," exclaimed former Sports Chief Administrative Secretary Zack Kinuthia.
Mr Kinuthia is a great fan of Boy's songs and routinely quotes them in his public speeches.
When the news came out on Sunday night via Inooro TV, which interviewed Boy at the correctional facility, social media was awash with reactions from his fans.
Boy burst into the limelight in 2011 when he started releasing single hits. But it was not until 2014 that his “No Ira Tu” (it was only yesterday) burst the charts.
The song tells of a person's tribulations before triumphing over them, leaving the conqueror with the testimony that "it was only yesterday that I was in pain but today I'm redeemed and in prosperity".
The song became a near-anthem in Mt Kenya and catapulted Boy into a household name.
He had other hits to his credit that included “Njuĩrĩ” (hair), Ndũtĩagĩra Andũ Maũthĩ (God doesn't favour physique) and “Kiugo Kĩmwe” (one word.)
All his songs were about inspiration in dealing with daily upheavals of life and keeping the eye on the prize of blessings.
"When Boy sings, you can feel the power of inspiration descend on you. He sings of issues that we have faced, especially those of us who were brought into the world of needs and wants. Boy directly speaks to the souls of the humble," Mr Kinuthia said.
Friend brings trouble
But in August 2015, something happened that would change his life and lead him to life imprisonment.
In the TV interview, he narrated how his relationship with his bosom friend brought trouble on him.
"He was from my village, the type of acquaintance that makes you not think twice when trusting him. He came to me one day carrying a television set, a gas cooker and a laptop. He had other effects that he asked me to keep for him in my house," Boy said.
"He looked genuine. In any case, those were ordinary items that any person can own. I readily agreed to keep them since he told me he was leaving the city for some time and he did not wish to carry them along, that he would come for them at a later date."
But Boy said that some of the items were suspicious as there were several mobile phones.
He added that it was not the first time that his friend, whom he identified as Onesmus Karanja, would leave items with him and later come for them.
Arrested for violent robbery
A week later, the police came knocking on his door with a search warrant.
“I was arrested and stayed in remand for three months. Then I managed to raise a Sh1.2 million bond and was freed as the case went on. In December 2021, I was convicted and jailed for life in February 2022,” he narrated.
Following Boy’s arrest, Mr Karanja, his friend, went into hiding.
“I later came to learn that he had died in a road accident,” Boy said.
Boy's life became complicated when the details of the case facing him started coming out. It was akin to pouring rain.
"I was taken to the Gilgil Police Station and charged with robbery with violence. The items had been stolen in Gilgil from some Europeans," he revealed.
After learning that his friend was now dead, Boy now concentrated on the case he was facing in court.
"The case now became mine. My priority changed from tracing my friend to defending myself. I owned the case," he said.
Sentenced to life imprisonment
But luck was not on his side. He was unable to convince the court that he was innocent and was sentenced to life imprisonment.
"I apologise to my fans. I know that I had a future in music since you had embraced me so well. But I look into the skies and pray to God that he delivers me from this cross. I have appealed the sentence," he said.
Boy said that his greatest pain is to know that he has left behind a young wife and a young son "and certainly I wouldn't love that he grows up to be told that his Christian, born-again father who was one of the most promising gospel artistes is in jail for robbing a person".
Through its chairman Epha Maina, the Talented Musicians and Composers Sacco, which draws its membership mainly from the Mt Kenya region, said it sympathised with Boy’s plight.
"The (case is) grave but we are praying for him. We have all along given him our moral support and had hoped that he would be acquitted. But as things stand, our fingers remain crossed, hoping for the best," Mr Maina said.