24 March 2019

Kenya: American Wanted Over Love Triangle Murder Living Large in U.S. City

An American fugitive wanted for the murder of a billionaire in Kenya is living large in Florida despite two warrants of arrest against him, the Sunday Nation can reveal.

Tomorrow, as a Mombasa court hears the case on the murder of Jimmy Paluram Jagatrum Baburam, who was found dead in a swimming pool at Medina Palms Resort in Watamu on July 26, 2015, the American suspect linked to the killing will not be present.

DROWNING

Mr Jacob Will Schmalzle, who fled Kenya after he was tipped off by a rogue investigator that he would be arrested over the murder, will probably be busy doing his sales job at Castle Church Brewing in Orlando, Florida.

In Kenya, Mr Schmalzle, 33, left behind his alleged lover and co-accused in the murder case, Ms Amina Shiraz Yakub -- who is also Mr Baburam's widow.

Officers investigating the matter suspect that Mr Baburam was murdered in a love triangle during a family vacation in the Coast where Mr Schmalzle was present.

A case was filed against the duo a year after Mr Baburam was murdered.

Postmortem results showed that he died as a result of drowning and chronic kidney disease. Mr Baburam also had cerebral oedema, which is an accumulation of fluid in spaces inside and outside the brain cells.

Ms Yakub is out on a Sh10 million bond with two sureties of the same amount. In her bail terms, she was ordered to report to Gigiri Police Station in Nairobi once every week until the end of the trial. However, Mr Richard Mungwai the OCPD Gigiri said "no officer is aware of such a lady reporting".

ONLINE SEARCH

Kenyan authorities had indicated they had issued an international warrant of arrest against the fugitive, but Interpol told the Sunday Nation they were not aware of any such request. It took us just a few days to track down Mr Schmalzle using information from a US-based anonymous source, publicly available personal data held by American authorities, online search tools and social media posts.

Mr Schmalzle currently lives in a Sh30 million luxury home which stands on a 0.28-acre land in Hunter Isle Drive, Orlando. The property is registered in the name of his father Mr Robert Schmalzle who is a pastor with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kissimmee, Florida.

A source in the USA told the Sunday Nation that the fugitive is a known golfer and also plays key roles in the Lutheran church in Florida.

In August 24, 2015 -- just a month after the death of her husband -- Ms Yakub was part of the 250 guests who witnessed the suspect's brother, Aaron and Ms Joelle Palzer walk down the aisle at the Trinity Lutheran Church in Florida.

Mr Schmalzle first came to Kenya in 1998 when he was 12, arriving with his parents and siblings. Their mission? To spread Christianity through the Lutheran Church of Kenya.

He would later leave for the US where he went to further his studies but later returned in 2007 after he graduated from Wittenberg University.

EXTRADITION

He was previously associated with various companies, including Eco Pallets Kenya Limited, Village Markets of Africa and Dr Bones. A company registry search this week indicated the files were not immediately available.

In a magazine published on October 11, 2012 by the Central States Syroid Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Mr Schmalzle described the Village Markets of Africa as a Lutheran fair trade organisation that "brings handmade crafts from developing countries across the world to the USA."

Dr Bones was a company that used to deliver dog food within Nairobi. Ms Yakub is associated with Very Impawtant Pets (VIP) Spa Limited. The two are said to have initially had work-related meetings.

When the Sunday Nation called VIP company, which is based along Kitusuru Road in Nairobi and deals with providing care for pets, an official who picked the call said Ms Yakub was no longer a director.

However, records at the registrar of companies accessed on Friday list Ms Yakub as a director.

The first arrest warrant against the American was issued on December 8, 2016 by the Mombasa High Court but it was too late because the suspect had already fled to America.

The warrant was issued by Judge Asenath Ongeri after the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions said that without the warrant of arrest it could not commence extradition proceedings.

Again, on March 2, 2017, a second warrant of arrest was issued against Mr Schmalzle by the Malindi Chief Margistrate Julie Oseko.

HIGHEST PRIORITY

Investigations further revealed that Mr Schmalzle's exit from the country was not without drama.

A video clip that is loaded on YouTube shows how Mr David Jagatram, a retired brigadier who is the late Baburam's father, followed him to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and caused a fracas that saw Mr Mr Schmalzle's departure delayed.

Mr Schmalzle filed a complaint at the JKIA police station claiming assault. He told the police that he was hit with a walking stick and had his complaint recorded as OB number 13/18/5/2016.

The late Baburam's family through their lawyer Maru Nishit said that all they were interested to find out was the circumstances that led to the death of their kin.

"All the family is interested in is to find out what caused the death of Mr Baburam, that is all," the lawyer said.

The legal pact between Kenya and America allows for extradition if one is accused of murder or manslaughter in either country. It is, however, not clear why Mr Schmalzle remains a free man in Florida despite the warrants.

The American Embassy this week said that no one was above the law and that the protection and assistance of American citizens in Kenya was its highest priority.

NO RECORDS

"No American citizen is above the law, whether in the US or in Kenya. A fair and speedy investigation and trial is in order for anyone accused of or arrested for such a serious crime," said the American Embassy, adding that Kenyan immigration maintains passport control for all travellers.

Questions remain on why the Kenyan authorities allowed him to leave. It also remains a mystery why an alleged international warrant mentioned in court appeared not to have been brought to the attention of Interpol. "We advise you to contact the national authorities in the country where you believe an arrest warrant has been issued for this individual," Interpol said when contacted by the Sunday Nation.

It further said that its duties are not issuing arrest warrants and therefore there was no way Mr Schmalzle could be "wanted by Interpol".

Police in Florida told the Sunday Nation that they did not have any records about the fugitive. "Orlando Police Records has no responsive records on the mentioned individual," Mr Nicole Bologna the records unit deputy boss said.

The Sunday Nation contacted Mr Schmalzle using his listed telephone and e-mail contacts in Florida, but he did not respond.

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