US Murder Fugitive Accused Of Killing His Girlfriend Escapes From Custody In Kenya

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A man who fled the US after allegedly killing his girlfriend has escaped from police custody where he was being held without anyone stopping him.

Kelvin Kangethe, 41, was arrested last week after leaving a club in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, after a months-long manhunt. A court had allowed his detention for 30 days awaiting possible extradition.

Nairobi police chief Adamson Bungei said on Thursday that Kelvin Kangethe slipped out of the police station and jumped into a privately owned minivan, adding that a fresh search for him began immediately.

Four police officers who were on duty at the station are in custody and have recorded statements, according to a police report seen by The Associated Press.

The officers said that around 4 p.m. on Wednesday, a man named John Maina Ndegwa introduced himself to the officers as Kangethe’s lawyer and said he wanted to speak with his client.

“The officers agreed to his request and removed the prisoner from the cells and took him to (an) office … leaving them there. After a short while the prisoner escaped by running away and left the (lawyer) behind,” the report said.

Officers pursued Kangethe but did not catch him, the police report said, adding that Ndegwa was arrested.

Nairobi police chief Adamson Bungei said he rushed to the station when he learned of the escape. “We have arrested the officers who were on duty when he escaped to explain how it happened. It is just embarrassing to us,” he said.

Kangethe had been detained pending a ruling on whether he should be extradited to face a first-degree murder charge in connection with the death of Margaret Mbitu on Oct. 31, 2023.

Massachusetts State Police said in early November that Kangethe had left her body in a car at Logan International Airport and boarded a flight to Kenya. Massachusetts officials said they were working with Kenyan authorities to locate him, and he was arrested in a nightclub on Jan. 30 after being on the run for three months.

A police official told the AP that Kangethe said he had renounced his U.S. citizenship. The police official, who insisted on anonymity to speak freely about an ongoing investigation, said if Kangethe were an American citizen he would have been repatriated without a court process.

The court approved a police application for him to be detained for 30 days while the extradition issue was heard.

On Feb. 2, prosecutor Vincent Monda asked the court to endorse the U.S. warrant for Kangethe’s arrest and issue directions for the extradition proceedings.

The suspect’s lawyer sought directions on surrendering Kangethe to the U.S. and opposed his continuing detention as disregarding his rights. Chief Magistrate Lucas Onyina was to give further directions on the matter and issue orders related to the bond issue on Feb. 9.

Mbitu, a health care aide in Halifax, was last seen leaving work Oct. 30 and reported missing by her family. The preliminary investigation showed Mbitu had left her workplace and travelled with Kangethe to Lowell, where he lived, the prosecution said.

Police have been ranked as Kenya’s most corrupt institution for decades, and his escape raised suspicions that bribes were paid for his freedom. Other suspected killers have escaped police custody in the past.

On Oct. 14, 2021, Masten Wanjala, who had confessed to killing 10 children in his hometown of Bungoma in western Kenya, reportedly escaped from police cells in Nairobi under unclear circumstances. A mob in his hometown traced him to a house and beat him to death a couple of days later.