THE SEARCH FOR IRENE: The Mysterious Life of Nathan Hightman (Part 2)

GILLETTE, Wyo.—Nathan Hightman is no stranger to tragedy. Much has been said and written about the strange and troubling disappearance of his fiancé, Irene Gakwa, from this part of coal country in Wyoming. But lost in the hue and cry is who’s at the center of the story—Hightman himself—and the little-known fact that, when he was in his early 20s, his mother was murdered at her home by her estranged ex-husband.

THE SEARCH FOR IRENE: The Mysterious Life of Nathan Hightman (Part 4)

Hightman, now 39, told police that Gakwa, then 32, fled in a dark SUV in late February. He said hasn’t seen or talked to her since, according to court documents. Police have named Hightman a “person of interest” in her disappearance. In the wake of Gakwa’s departure, Hightman was charged with five felonies, including allegedly transferring over $3,600 from her bank account and maxing out her credit card in over 90 separate transactions, according to court documents. He also has been charged wit

CRIME WATCH WYOMING: Father Wants Answers and Justice in Son’s Mysterious Death, Part 2

According to police records, Jeff Broberg was with Ken at his house in downtown Lusk the night before he disappeared in July 2014. Broberg said that Ken had been taking “large amounts of prescription medication” and that he’d hid the pills so Ken couldn’t take anymore. Broberg told police he thought Ken was depressed and had talked about killing himself before Broberg left his house late that evening. Ernie said he received a call from his son that night. While he was taking a bath, Ken told hi

CRIME WATCH WYOMING: Father Seeks Answers in Son’s Mysterious Death, Part 1

“My first thoughts when I could not get a hold of Ken was he is either out and about or harm had come to him,” he said. During what would be their last conversation, Ken complained to Ernie about two men he called “Tim” and “Jeff” who, he said, were trying to kill him. “At the time, I first thought that he was high and being paranoid,” Ernie said. When Ken didn’t answer, Ernie drove to Lusk from Torrington, where he met with former Lusk Police Chief Sean Dreesen at Ken’s rented home in downto

Finding Harold: Part II

And under the weight of all that blue, even the sky starts to feel heavy. Let alone when one moves from a city of nearly 60,000 to a population of 4 in a remote outpost stuck out in the middle of a desolate high desert prairie. Welcome to Lost Springs, Wyoming. It’s America’s smallest incorporated town. After having moved to Lost Springs just over a year ago from Idaho Falls, Anngela Starnes learned exactly how long a day could feel. “It was really, really hard at first,” Anngela says, wistfu

Finding Harold: Part III

This is Joe’s first visit to Prairie View Cemetery since Anngela Starnes and her crew went to work cleaning it up early this summer. “You can’t believe the difference,” Joe says, shielding his eyes against the pink glare of morning sun as he scans the perimeter of the grounds. Like many other local residents, Joe’s interest in the cemetery is particular. In his case, a promise he made to his Uncle Jack to tend to the graves of Jack’s parents and siblings, members of the Dieleman family, all of

The Final Chapter: 90 years in the making: Raymond finds closure

Today, with his son and other family members surrounding him, 94-year-old Raymond has finally been reunited with his brother, a bitter sweet moment that he’s having a hard time digesting. Sitting within five feet of his brother’s grave in Prairie View Cemetery, Raymond smiles ruefully. He tugs on his oxygen tube and shifts in his folding chair while digging memories from the crevices of his mind. “It was so long ago,” he says, shaking his head. He didn’t get to spend a lot of time with his bro

Last run

When the fuel is finally loaded, Tori shuts the hatch and hops down, pausing only briefly to give her dad a quick update before she’s off running again, emptying bags of dirty rags, wiping down the windshield, and running inside for any last-minute supplies. As the team’s “swamper,” Tori’s job involves a lot of grunt work, including dragging out hoses, climbing on top of heavy equipment, and opening and closing all of the gates, by far, according to Tori, the most tedious — and injury provoking