Congo refugee indicted in Syracuse murder


Following the November murder of Jesca Nyirakubanza, a 64 year-old refugee from Congo, fellow refugee Award Kabayiza was indicted on second-degree murder charges on Thursday.

The 24 year-old Kabayiza is a refugee from the same Congolese area as Nyirakubanza, as both immigrated into the U.S. around the same time.

Police say Kabayiza visited Nyirakubanza’s home on the night of Nov. 14 for only a “short period”, when the man eventually proceeded to beat Nyirakubanza in the head. The woman died from blunt force trauma.

Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler has yet to reveal a motive for the crime, saying that both were familiar in the same social sphere. Nyirakubanza went as far as hosting Kabayiza into her home, given the man’s unfamiliarity with the area and their shared Congolese background.

“We don’t know what led up to this,” Fowler said in November.

Jesca Nyirakubanza

Jesca Nyirakubanza

Following the killing, police quickly assessed the area and determined Kabayiza as the primary suspect. He was arrested at the scene of the crime.

Held without bail at the Onondaga County Justice Center, Kabayiza’s role in the death of Nyirakubanza resulted in the 26th homicide in the Syracuse in 2016, a record for the city. “That’s 26 lives lost. That’s 26 of our citizens that have died,” Fowler said last year. “It really troubles us around here.”

A report by Syracuse’s WYSR after the death of Nyirakubanza sheds light on the 64 year-old woman’s family, as the TV station speaks with her 22 year-old son Eliya Nkurnziza. The report can be found here.


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