Two suspected hitmen plead guilty in the murder of Nyeri tycoon's son

From left: James Mahinda, Eddy Kariuki, Raphael Wachira, Geoffrey Warutumo appear before Nyeri High Court on April 28, 2021.

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

Two hitmen allegedly hired by late Nyeri businessman Stephen Wang'ondu to kill his son have pleaded guilty to murder.

During a court session presided over by magistrate Martin Muya on Thursday, Eddy Kariuki and Raphael Wachira admitted killing 32-year-old Daniel Mwangi at Mwiyogo in Kieni on January 1, 2021.

The two pleaded guilty after signing a plea agreement with the prosecution. 

The document, which was also read in court, showed that the Director of Public Prosecutions, led by Mwangi Gachanja, agreed to ask the court to drop the death penalty for murder and instead seek a lighter sentence of imprisonment if the accused signed the plea bargain.

He added, however, that the final decision was at the court's discretion.

Wachira and Kariuki are the only remaining suspects in the case, which saw the death of the main suspect, Wang'ondu, as the trial continued. Wang'odu died in May 2021, shortly after being released on Sh1 million bail. 

The late Stephen Wang'ondu in the dock on February 26, 2021.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Two other people who were charged alongside the three were also acquitted. 

James Mahinda, who was Wang'ondu's driver and had been hired by the businessman to look for contract killers, signed a plea bargain and pleaded guilty to the lesser offence of negligent homicide.

He confessed to transporting the hitmen to Mwangi's home in Mwiyogo location and was sentenced to two years imprisonment and one year suspended.

Mahinda had asked one of his friends - Geoffery Warutumo, an Embu-based trader - to help him find the killers. 

Mweiga murder

Daniel Mwangi Wang’ondu’s grave in Wendiga village, Nyeri County on February 24, 2021.

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

Warutumo was among the suspects charged alongside Wang'ondu, but was released by the court after it was established that the police had no evidence against him linking him to the murder as he did not leave Embu town on the day of the killing.

The two, Warutumo and Mahinda, have since been turned state witnesses.

During today's proceedings, lawyers Munga Ndichu and Zachary Gichuki, who represented Wachira and Kariuki, asked the court for leniency, saying the suspects were remorseful for their actions.

"Furthermore, the second accused (Wachira) has been in remand custody for the past two years, he is diabetic and has had to be hospitalised several times. He is the son of a single mother who is totally dependent on him," said lawyer Ndichu.

In its orders, the court asked the probation service to prepare a Victim Impact Assessment Report on the suspects before deciding on the jail term.

The report is due to be submitted to the court on October 30.