How ‘academic genius’ became a killer

Robert Lesiew and his victim, Mary Chepkemoi.

Robert Lesiew and his victim, Mary Chepkemoi.

As one of the most well read men from Olaare village in the Burnt Forest area of Uasin Gishu County, Robert Lesiew was considered a public asset.

Not only did he have a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management, but also a Master’s degree in economics, both from a respected university.

However, when he fired 17 bullets that killed his brother’s wife, Mary Chepkemoi, on the evening of Monday, December 29, as she prepared a meal for her family, his neighbours forgot all about his impressive academic credentials.

Hours after he committed the shocking crime, they descended on him in his house, lynching him on the morning of Tuesday, December 30.

Later in the day, as police were investigating the double tragedy, they found six AK-47 rifles and about 700 bullets in Lesiew’s homestead, leaving not just the villagers in shock, but the rest of the country as well.

In his youth, Lesiew, erroneously identified in earlier reports as Leshao, was easily the cleverest boy in the community. However, those who knew him said his life took a turn for the worse when he started using drugs.

“He was a very clever son whom I always thought would change the face of my family,” his mother, Mrs Ruth Kiprop, said in an interview with the Nation. “He was a genius.”

Born on April 17, 1970 in the same village, Lesiew was the fifth child in a family of seven.

He joined Rurigi Primary School in 1976, proceeding straight to Standard One and skipping nursery school after teachers realised he was too clever to start from scratch.

“He was the cleverest of all my children and even the whole village was proud of him,” Mrs Kiprop said as her family came to terms with the tragedy. Friends and relatives were preparing for two funerals in the same homestead.

His academic star started waning after he joined Simotwo Secondary School in 1986. It was then that he started showing strange behaviour.


“A herdsboy whispered to me that my son was using drugs. Then, it was said he was smoking bhang, but still he was calm,” said Mrs Kiprop.

Neighbours who spoke to the Nation recalled that while in secondary school, Lesiew used to train in Tae-Kwondo. He also enjoyed throwing knives at targets for sport.

He joined the University of Nairobi in 1990. Sadly, he also graduated from smoking bhang to abusing hard drugs, including cocaine.

Soon after graduating with a Master’s degree in 1998, he was embroiled in a fight with a villager.

“The man he fought died afterwards and my brother was arrested,” said Peter Kiprop, whose wife was killed on Monday.

According to him, elders resolved the case and Lesiew was ordered to observe peace for two years, which he did.

In 2002, he was employed as a management trainee by the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) and his industry soon led him to be confirmed as a full-time employee.

“At this point, I knew my son would take away all our problems and probably build me a nice house,” his mother said, tears welling up in her eyes.

Four years later, Lesiew was engaged to Elizabeth Kapsoi. They got married and had three children, but in 2006, they were separated, ostensibly because Lesiew was having an affair with a woman identified as Esther Komen.

Later, Lesiew married Esther. They had two children but their marriage also ended in a separation.

At NSSF, he was transferred to Kitui, then to Nakuru, Kitale and Garissa. He eventually quit his job in 2008 without an explanation and moved back home.

It was then that his neighbours noticed his changed persona. He was easy to anger and no longer pleasant.

Over time, he took up dairy farming but was becoming more of a recluse. Villagers kept their distance for fear of provoking him.

Last February, rumours started circulating that he had a gun. Villagers started regarding him as a potential killer.

“We would hear gun shots from his house,” said Francis Mutwol, who lives in the same village. “We informed the chief (but he) did not take the matter seriously because there was no arrest thereafter.”

By the time he met his death, he had married three times and had 10 children in all. His first wife, Ms Kapsoi, is a science teacher in a secondary school in Nakuru, his second, Ms Komen, at one point worked as his secretary at NSSF, while his third, Ms Joyce Sokome, is a farmer.

His eldest child will join Standard Seven when schools reopen this month.

On Sunday, December 28, Ms Kapsoi had approached Lesiew to discuss school fees for their son.

“He agreed he would consider it,” she said. Unknown to her, that would be their last conversation. He would be dead in two days.

“My children are so traumatised,” said Ms Kapsoi.

Lesiew’s brother, Peter, is lucky to be alive. After Lesiew had sprayed Peter’s wife with bullets, he fired 18 other rounds in the sitting room, where Peter had been relaxing.

Peter survived by diving to the floor. And although he is alive, the widower has three children who have been left without a mother.



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