They say time is a master healer, but for the family of the late Rongo University student Sharon Otieno who was killed in a most gruesome manner, this is remains just that, a saying.
For Mr Douglas Otieno and his wife Melida Auma, Sharon’s parents, the memories and images of their daughter lying cold dead still haunt them.
Death, they admit, is inevitable anyway, but the manner in which their daughter and her unborn child were killed is what disturbs them most. One year on, they have not come to terms with her demise.
The thought of the pain their daughter underwent before her death at the hands of her killers throws them into fresh mourning every time Sharon is mentioned.
Sharon, who was seven months pregnant, was stabbed eight times. A postmortem report indicated that the fatal blow to the baby was a single knife stab through the 26 year-old’s abdomen.
The family is now preparing for her anniversary, to be held on September 4, exactly a year after her body was found dumped in a thicket in Oyugis, Homa Bay county.
“We are preparing for her first anniversary. We welcome everyone and anybody, including those responsible for her death,” Sharon’s parents said at their home in Magare village within the same county.
Her macabre death shook the nation, probably because high-profile persons were involved.
Migori Governor Okoth Obado and his two aides were charged with the murder of the university girl and spent several weeks at the Industrial Area remand prison. The governor was released on a Sh5 million bail by High Court judge Jessie Lesiit.
His two aides, Michael Oyamo and Caspal Obiero were not as lucky and spent several months in prison before securing bond. The case is still on.
At the home of Mr and Mrs Otieno, normal village life goes on. Sharon’s two young children are playing together with their cousins in the homestead, running from one corner of the vast compound to the other.
The third one, the eldest, was not at home when we visited as he had gone to Nairobi to visit one of his uncles during the August holiday.
The youngest, a girl, is now over two years old, while the second born is aged four and the first born five.
The tender care on them by their grandparents is evident as they keep running towards them to be cuddled.
Ms Auma says she has forgiven her daughter’s killers for the sake of her inner peace but they must be brought to book for justice to prevail
She adds that court sessions as well as reports in the media make the situation harder for them.
“The court sessions and media reports constantly remind us of our daughter. And probably that is why healing has become difficult for us. Old wounds are opened and we get into new mourning. It is not easy,” said Ms Auma.
Ms Auma has never visited her daughter’s grave and its mention sends chills down her spine.
“Sharon was my friend and at no one time did I ever figure her being beneath the ground. I prefer not to ever visit her final resting place,” she said.
On the contrary, Sharon’s father visits the gravesite daily and says he gets satisfaction in just knowing his daughter is sleeping down there peacefully.
“I ensure that I visit this place at least once in a day. It just gives me some peace,” says Mr Otieno as he tends to his daughter’s grave.
He adds: “I did not know that my first born child would go ahead of me. She went first because of her killers. Parents should never bury their children.”
A huge mound of soil still covers it. Some grass has grown on its side and goats were feeding when we visited.
Beside this grave is one of her seven months old foetus. One has to be very keen to spot it as the mound of soil that was there a year ago has sunk, putting the site at the same level with the rest of the ground. Grass and weeds have also grown.
Sharon and journalist Barack Oduor went missing last year in September. They were kidnapped, but the journalist managed to jump out of their abductor’s moving car, incurring serious injuries.
Mr Obado admitted that the slain university student was his girlfriend. Detectives and government scientists confirmed that the baby boy killed in Ms Otieno’s womb was Obado’s.
Her family says they still fear for their lives as their daughter’s killers are still roaming free. “Our compound is not even fenced. Anyone can get in,” said Ms Auma.
They say it is even harder for them when they attend court as they feel insecure.
They also say the court sessions are far off in Nairobi, and it is always a struggle for them to attend, given their financial constraints.
Ms Auma has since transferred to God Bondo primary School which is nearer home. She commutes daily to and from school.
Before her daughter’s death, they used to live together in Rangwe constituency where she worked.