Alexander Kinyua pleaded guilty Monday to charges that he killed a family friend with an ax and ate his heart, and a Harford County judge found the defendant not criminally responsible for the act because of mental illness.
The decision means Kinyua, 22, will not be sent to prison for the Joppa killing. Instead, Kinyua will remain committed to a mental health facility indefinitely, unless a judge finds that he is healthy and no longer dangerous.
Those close to 37-year-old victim Kujoe Bonsafo Agyei-Kodie questioned how long Kinyua would be held, telling prosecutors they could derive little comfort from the resolution. On Monday prosecutors described grisly details, including a charred serving dish in which Kinyua's brother said he had seen dismembered hands.
Percess Veronica Mattison, a close family friend, described "startling moments of stark disbelief" in the circumstances of Agyei-Kodie's death.
"Alexander did not impulsively commit the crime," she said in court. "He prepared Kujoe for consumption."
Kinyua, a former Morgan State University student, pleaded guilty but not criminally responsible to first-degree murder in the 2012 killing. He had been released from jail just days before the killing on charges that he partially blinded a fellow student by hitting him with a baseball bat.
In that assault case, Kinyua also pleaded guilty and was found not criminally responsible. A judge in December agreed with a psychiatric assessment that determined Kinyua was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia at the time and believed reptilian aliens were going to destroy the Earth.
Officials released few specifics Monday about their assessment of his mental state at the time of the murder. After the hearing, Harford County State's Attorney Joseph I. Cassilly said the state found he was not in control of his actions in the murder case and that he had no option but to accept that conclusion.
"We really had no evidence, no testimony or opinion from other medical personnel that would dispute the findings of the doctors" at Clifton T. Perkins Hospital, the state facility where Kinyua is being held, he said.
Agyei-Kodie's friends and realtives felt "a great sense of emptiness" after Kinyua's plea, Cassilly said.
"They kind of feel like nothing really happened today," he said, adding that they had questions about how long Kinyua would be committed.
Cassilly said that under state law, a committed person cannot be released until the court finds they are no longer a threat to themselves or others, based on psychiatric evaluations. He added that he has seen defendants convicted of lesser charges, such as arson and assault, committed for more than 20 years.
Kinyua, bearded and wearing glasses, a black sweater and navy blue pants, answered Circuit Judge Stephen M. Waldron quietly as the judge asked whether he understood the terms of his plea.
Agyei-Kodie, a Ghanaian who had pursued graduate studies in Maryland, had been staying with Kinyua's family in Joppa for several months when he went missing last May, prosecutors say.
Kinyua, who was studying electrical engineering at Morgan, was the last person to report seeing him, saying Agyei-Kodie was stretching and wearing running clothes about 5:30 a.m. May 25, Assistant State's Attorney Chris Smith told the court Monday.
Four days later, sheriff's deputies visited the Kinyua family home and found several family members in the basement, in a semicircle around a large aluminum serving dish on the floor.
Kinyua was in the corner with his hands behind his back, staring straight ahead. Inside the pan were burn marks and liquid, Smith said.
Kinyua's brother, Jarrod, told deputies that he had seen human hands in the pan, but they were gone, Smith said. Kinyua interrupted and said that what his brother had seen was a fox he had caught and tried to cook. Police found a metal cage and plastic tub with a decaying animal in the backyard, according to Smith.
Kinyua's brother told them he had found human hands and a skull in two stacked metal containers under a blanket in the laundry room. After the brother went to get his father, Jarrod found Kinyua cleaning a metal container with Pine Sol, Smith said.
Police eventually discovered two human hands and a head on the home's main floor. Kinyua later told police he had killed Agyei-Kodie with an ax while he was sleeping, dismembered him, and then ate his heart and placed the arms, legs and torso in a garbage bin outside a church.
Agyei-Kodie had faced his own legal troubles. In 2009, he was convicted in a case involving a Morgan State graduate student who told police he harassed her. His student visa was revoked in March 2010 and an immigration judge ordered him deported, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman said last year.
Some of Agyei-Kodie's friends and relatives, who live in Pennsylvania, spoke in court Monday about the loss they had suffered. His mother and siblings live in Ghana.
Mattison called Agyei-Kodie "a godly young man" whose goal was to become educated at the highest level possible and then return to his home country.
"He did not talk as a dreamer but as an achiever," Mattison said.
Agyei-Kodie's uncle, Anthony Opoku Ware, also described his nephew's ambitions.
"He was very much into becoming somebody in life," Ware said.
Kinyua did not address the court after Mattison and Ware spoke. His attorney has declined to speak to the news media.
Waldron said he accepted Kinyua's plea based on the information provided by both the defense and prosecution.
"My heart breaks for you," he told Agyei-Kodie's family. "I'm very, very sorry."