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Kenyan Seminary Rector Says Seminarian Found Dead Showed Commitment to Priestly Formation

Body bags containing two of the three people, including a Seminarian who were found dead at a house in Nairobi, Kenya

The Rector of the Nairobi-based National Major Seminary has described the seminarian who was found dead in unclear circumstances at an estate as “a very good student” who never “did anything to show he wasn’t committed to (Priestly) formation” while at the Seminary.

According to Fr. John Lelei, the Rector of St. Thomas Aquinas National Major Seminary in Kenya’s Nairobi Archdiocese, Seminarian Kelvin Kipkoech had completed a bulk of his Priestly formation studies and was just a year shy of his Diaconate ordination.

The body of Seminarian Kelvin as well as that of a woman and her eight-year-old son were on Tuesday, February 23 found inside the woman’s house at Government quarters along Nairobi’s Jogoo road.

Kenyan media reported that the bodies of the mother and son were found lying on the floor of her bedroom while holding rosaries while Kelvin’s remains were found inside the toilet with his hands and legs tied.

Postmortem results released February 27 revealed that Charity Cherop, 34, and her son, Allan Kipng’etich suffered suffocation and that the two could have been dead for over 24 hours before their bodies were discovered.

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Meanwhile, 30-year-old Kelvin, could have died a day after the death of Charity and Allan.

“I concluded that the boy died of what is called smothering or lack of oxygen in the boy and the same for the mother,” Kenya’s Chief Government Pathologist, Johansen Oduor who conducted the postmortem told journalists February 27.

The Kenyan Pathologist added in reference to Kelvin, “As for the gentleman, I observed that he died of carbon monoxide poisoning.”

In an interview with ACI Africa Monday, March 1, Fr. Lelei said it was difficult for the leadership of the Seminary to know the circumstances surrounding the deaths.

“It is very hard for us to know anything concerning this situation. All I can say is that Kelvin was a very good student. He never did anything to show that he was capable of the circumstance that he found himself in. All I saw was a student who showed commitment to his formation,” Fr. Lelei told ACI Africa.

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The Rector said that the Seminary had been closed for days when the incident was reported and that the Seminarian, who hailed from Kenya’s Eldoret Diocese, was not expected to be in Nairobi.

“The Seminary was closed and all Seminarians were expected to be at home with their families or at the Dioceses. We closed the Seminary on February 6 and the news of the death reached me on February 23. This makes the incident difficult for us to handle,” the Kenyan Seminary Rector told ACI Africa.

According to Fr. Lelei, Seminarian Kelvin was supposed to report back to Nairobi in August to complete his studies in Theology.

The father of the late Seminarian told local media that family members were expecting Kevin at home at around the time he died.

“My son was a Seminarian and all of us were expecting that he would start his missionary work as a Catholic Priest soon because he had just completed exams,” Kelvin’s dad, Elijah Kimaiyo told Nairobi News.

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In the March 1 interview with ACI Africa, Fr. Lelei faulted the widely circulated media reports identifying Seminarian Kevin as a Priest of the Catholic Church.

“Whatever is being shared by the media creates the impression that Kelvin was a Priest. No, he wasn’t. This was just a young man who was still discerning his call,” the Kenyan Cleric said.

He explained, “Seminarians are people who are still in discernment. It can only be hoped that they will disengage from other aspects of their lives to become Priests.”