The preliminary trial of the four suspects charged with the brutal killing of a Kitui youth leader opened on Tuesday with one of the suspects admitting he committed the offence.
Mr John Munyoki Kitumbi, who is the second accused in the case, pleaded guilty to the murder charge prompting High Court Judge Lilian Mutende to halt the proceedings for one hour to allow him to make up his mind.
The accused is charged alongside Mr Joshua Mueke Mutunga, Mr Mutua Muasya and Mr Koki Kimanzi with the murder of Benjamin Muema Kinyali which occurred on April 16 this year.
The charge stated that on April 16, 2019, at Ginnery area in Kitui town, they jointly murdered Kinyali.
When the charge was read to the suspects, the first accused Mr Mutunga pleaded not guilty but Mr Kitumbi pleaded guilty causing the trial judge to adjourn the plea taking, before the other two suspects could answer the charge.
Justice Mutende warned the 30-year-old suspect of the consequences of his response to the charge, saying that he would be convicted right away to a life in prison, on his own plea of guilty.
The judge paused to read a medical examination report compiled at the Mathari Hospital in Nairobi which declared that the suspects mentally fit to stand trial, before adjourning the court.
When the court resumed, the suspect recanted his earlier plea of guilty and denied the murder charge. The other three denied the charge too.
Prosecutor Bony Okwema told Justice Mutende that the second suspect was facing intimidation and physical abuse from his fellow accused persons in the case.
Mr Okwema requested the court to have Mr Kitumbi be held at the Machakos remand prison away from Kitui where the other three are for his own safety during the trial.
Justice Mutende granted the orders and set the hearing to start on July 16 with a pre-trial conference.
Mr Kinyali’s partly burnt body was found in thicket near Tiva River in Kwa Vonza, 25 kilometres from Kitui town on April 16.
Last week, the youth leader’s widow, Ms Salome Kathini Wambua, who was arrested in April after her husband’s killing was cleared by court after police found no evidence linking her to his killing.
Kitui Principal Magistrate Johnson Munguti terminated a Sh500,000 bond granted to Ms Wambua and set her free.
Kinyali was a National Youth Council official in Kitui Rural Constituency and was also a businessman with interests in real estate and road construction.