The year 2008 was a promising one for Dorothy Ong’era. She had won a Green Card and was looking forward to moving to the US and opening a new chapter in her life.
Her dream of getting greener pastures was coming true, and she would also join her parents and sisters who lived there.
At the time, she was finalising her nursing course at the Kenya Medical Training College (KMTC), Kisii.
Her father, David Ong’era, said it was tough for her -- having been married while still in college -- juggling her studies, a husband, and two daughters who are now aged 14 and 12. They later had a son who is now 10.
It was important for Dorothy to complete her studies, said her father, but a Green Card expires after 12 months. And so he helped his daughter process her ticket to America.
“She, therefore, occasionally visited America in a move that kept her Green Card valid and at the same time, she was able to finalise her studies,” said Mr Ong’era.
In August 2010, Dorothy finally moved to the US after completing her studies. Her third child was born there. She joined her parents in New Jersey and lived with them for a while, before moving to Texas in 2011 to join her sister Pharnice Ong’era.
In Texas, she rented a small house. She had a job as a nurse and could support herself financially.
Then Mr Obadiah Kinara, the man now accused of secretly burying her body without involving her parents, came into her life. At the time, Dorothy’s family says, he was jobless, but was later able to get a job as a nurse.
Dorothy decided to house him, and one thing led to another, and they started living together. Together, they had three children, all girls, now aged eight, six and two. At the time of Dorothy’s death in December last year, the youngest was only a year old and was still breastfeeding.
“I did not approve of the relationship. But there was nothing I could do after advising my daughter. In America, you do not want to get into trouble with your children just because they do not want to heed your advice. So I left them alone,” said Mr Ong’era.
After settling down with Mr Kinara, Dorothy kept to herself and only opened up to her family when problems cropped up in the relationship.
“There were on-and-off family wrangles, and as a father, when she first told me, I did not take the issues seriously,” Mr Ong’era said in a phone interview.
He claimed that the problems escalated when Mr Kinara’s parents visited in 2019.
“It was then that many things started cropping up. But we tried to encourage my daughter as we sorted out what we could,” he noted.
Dorothy’s sister, Ms Roselyne Nyakona, who is also the first born, says ownership of property, including their Texas house, was at the centre of the rows.
Mr Kinara is originally from Bobasi constituency in Kisii County, and together with Dorothy, had built a home. There is also a five-acre farm in Manga, Borabu constituency, in Nyamira County, where they also built a house and planted four-acres of eucalyptus trees.
They also have land in Nyamagwa, Kisii County. The two-acre farm has mature eucalyptus trees.
The fact that Dorothy only had daughters with Mr Kinara was a problem for him. There was also violence in the home.
“One time he knocked down the door to their bedroom, ripping off part of it. Officers from Kennedale Police Department, Texas, visited but the couple resolved the issue amicably,” said Mr Ong’era.
On another occasion, Mr Kinara is said to have removed all household items from their house and put them into storage.
Dorothy called the police, but they could not do much because the items were his, they said. However, they told him not to touch the children’s things.
Mr Ong’era wonders why Mr Kinara claimed life insurance for Dorothy just two days after her burial.
Dorothy’s lifeless body was found in a bathtub in her house in December last year. Mr Kinara went ahead and buried her without involving her parents or family, against an active court case that Mr Ong’era had filed, seeking to have an independent pathologist conduct the post-mortem examination to determine the cause of death.
Dorothy’s death has left her family broken and in despair.
Her sister, Roselyne is currently trying to comprehend the whole issue, while their mother Callen Ong’era, 63, developed multiple organ failure.
“She was unwell, but Dorothy’s death took a toll on her health. She was admitted to hospital in Texas and now visits the clinic three times a week for specialised medical care,” said Mr Ong’era.
Mr and Mrs Ong’era also had to move to Texas from New Jersey to be near their six grandchildren.