A woman who killed her co-wife’s three children may have murdered her own unborn child when she committed suicide, family members have said.
This emerged even as villagers at Got Kabindi, on the border of Vihiga and Kisumu counties struggled to come to terms with the fact that they lived with a suicidal killer in Jacinta Atieno, and missed the danger signs.
On Monday, Mr Festus Odhiambo, Jacinta’s husband, said his second wife had been mostly a good wife since they got married more than a year ago.
“The pregnancy she was carrying was four months old. She has been a good wife and only changed into a bad woman in December last year. Her change of character caught me by surprise,” said Mr Odhiambo.
He linked the change to intense rivalry between Jacinta and his first wife which started immediately Jacinta returned to their rural home from Nairobi.
“I hoped this would change for the better but this is where it has landed us. I am shocked at the turn of events,” said Mr Odhiambo, who is now preparing to bury his children.
His mother, Ms Doreen Ogonda, told the Nation that her daughter-in-law had tried to terminate the marriage, before she took her own life on Sunday.
The once happy village is now engulfed in sorrow, with residents thronging the home of the bereaved family to console them after Jacinta killed three children before hanging herself with a rope.
The minors, aged between one and seven years, had their young lives ended as their mother and Jacinta’s co-wife Hellen Atieno was busy in church on Sunday. The three children included two boys –Gordon Ouma, aged two, Joseph Ogonda, 5 and a girl – Pensila Awuor, 6.
‘SHE WAS STUBBORN’
“She has not lived here long. She had just moved in to settle in her husband’s family. However, listening to the family, it is clear that she was stubborn from the start,” local Assistant Chief, Mr Francis Okachi declared.
The assistant chief added that the family had not reported any incident to his office despite the numerous acts that are now being narrated after the killing of the children.
According to her in-laws, the killer woman had only lived in the village since December, after she moved in from Nairobi where she had been staying with the husband, a mechanic.
“Much of the time she was in Nairobi with our son. She only came here in December last year. But ever since she came, we have had problems,” said Mrs Ogonda.
Jacinta married Mr Odhiambo, 47, a year ago as a second wife. However, relatives said she had two sons from a previous marriage. One of the boys lived with his step father in Nairobi while the other lives at her maternal home in Kendu Bay, Homa Bay County.
In the village, she reportedly quarrelled with her co-wife and sometimes with her mother-in-law. But nothing pushed the family to fear she could kill anyone.
“We felt tired by her presence in our family and called her father to come and pick her. He instead sent Jacinta’s brother and revealed that her sister’s behaviour was not good. The husband promised to prevail on her to change her conduct,” said Mrs Ogonda.
QUARRELED WITH CO-WIFE
Just before the Sunday killings, she had quarreled with her co-wife but, again, no one imagined she would go to the extent of harming children.
On Monday, Mrs Ogonda spoke amid sobs as her husband, Mr Henry Ogonda, 84, looked on.
The children’s mother, Hellen Odhiambo, had collapsed after viewing the bodies of her children and was still admitted to a local hospital.
Jacinta is suspected to have poisoned the children and then slit their throats, as they lay unconscious. There were kitchen knife wounds on the children’s necks. Police carried away the remains of porridge found in enamel cups in Jacinta’s unfinished tin-roofed house.
The eldest of the children survived a horrible death after he refused to get into his step-mother’s house for porridge.
The family is of humble means, without running water or electricity. The village children attend a local primary school, often walking there barefoot. The road to the compound is rocky and the home, surrounded by a thicket.
Vihiga OCPD Mr Justin Nyagah described the incident as a family dispute that festered for so long.
‘FOUND WITH PETROL’
“We have been told she was found with petrol about two to three weeks ago and that she wanted to kill herself. This was not reported to us. The woman could have been living with a psychological problem that called for counselling,” said Mr Nyagah.
On Sunday, angry villagers wanted to torch Jacinta’s lifeless body but police intervened.
This did not stop them from pelting the body with stones.
Mr Odhiambi and his wives attended the Legio Maria Church while their aging parents are members of the African Israel Church, whose headquarters is at Jebrock in Vihiga County.
Members of both churches are now camping at the home to condole with and pray for the family.