By Justin George and Kevin Rector, The Baltimore Sun
10:08 PM EST, December 19, 2012
Months before he allegedly killed a family friend in Harford County, eating his heart and parts of his brain, Alexander Kinyua was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and believed reptilian aliens were coming to destroy Earth, a judge said Wednesday.
The revelations about the slow but steady deterioration of Kinyua's mind came as Baltimore Circuit Judge Gale E. Rasin accepted his plea of guilty but not criminally responsible on separate allegations that he attacked a fellow Morgan State University student with a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire.
Kinyua had been detained in a state treatment center for months. At the hearing, he entered his own plea and apologized for the May beating that left Joshua Ceasar legally blind.
"My deepest apology and sympathies will not be able to cover up what happened," said Kinyua, 22.
By accepting Kinyua's guilty plea to attempted first-degree murder along with the clinical assessment that he didn't comprehend what he was doing when he attacked Ceasar, Rasin committed him indefinitely to a psychiatric hospital. A team of doctors and an administrative law judge would have to agree to his release.
"The evidence is overwhelming that Mr. Kinyua was suffering from a mental illness at the time of the offense," Rasin said.
Harford County prosecutors say they will now push forward with a charge of first-degree murder that had been delayed by competency questions. Kinyua is accused of dismembering Kujoe Bonsafo Agyei-Kodie, a 37-year-old Ghanaian national staying in Kinyua's family home, just days after he was released on bail in Ceasar's attack.
Explaining her decision to Ceasar, Rasin offered the most detail made public to date about Kinyua's mental illness. She also said Kinyua had sought student counseling at Morgan State after exhibiting episodes of bizarre and violent behavior, meeting with a counselor for an hour but leaving without any follow-up or recommendations.
Rasin said she couldn't predict whether Kinyua would ever be released from medical treatment, but the possibility disturbed Ceasar.
"I don't agree with the court system that he has a chance to be let go," Ceasar, 22, said through tears and thick, black-rimmed glasses. "He shouldn't see the light of day."
Still, he said, he forgave Kinyua.
When it was his turn to speak, Kinyua, who takes two psychotropic drugs, rose to his shackled feet.
"I don't forgive myself," he said.
Until 2011, Kinyua, an electrical engineering student and son of a Morgan State physics professor, was an ordinary student.
Reading from a 23-page psychiatric report that included educational records, mental evaluations and witness statements, Rasin said Kinyua began hallucinating and eventually created a delusional universe.
He believed he was a prophet with secret powers. He wrote a manuscript about the history of mankind. He talked about a "Reptilian agenda" from outer space. His stories featured African slaves and the Bermuda Triangle, Rasin said.
Kinyua stopped going to school and church, developed his own spiritual beliefs and started spending time as a spiritual medium. He said he was a shaman. He burned incense and brought home animal parts — once a dead fox — that he told his father and others he used in religious exercises.
Deeply affected by the 1998 Kenyan embassy bombing, 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, he worried whether his family had an escape plan. Kinyua began stashing extra food at home. His mother eventually got hold of his manuscript and found it to be "gibberish," Rasin said. He became quiet and secretive.
In December 2011, released from ROTC, he believed people had sabotaged his computer records and had conspired to get him drunk, causing him to miss a football game. He punched holes in an office wall, prompting an ROTC official to call him a "Virginia Tech waiting to happen."
In January, his mother urged him to seek counseling for anger management problems, Rasin said. Kinyua saw someone in student counseling who the judge said didn't follow up.
Morgan State spokesman Clinton Coleman said information about the meeting would be considered private student records.
"Whether or not there's a follow-up or a referral depends a great deal on what they find in the evaluation," he said. "But in the particular case of Mr. Kinyua, I'm not able to comment on that."
Steve Silverman, an attorney for Ceasar, said Wednesday that he plans to explore the circumstances of the meeting in more detail.
"The school had a number of telltale signs," Silverman said.
In hindsight, Ceasar said he recognizes that Kinyua displayed troubling changes in behavior. When women met Kinyua, they found him strange.
"Why are you friends with him?" Ceasar recalled them saying. "He's a creeper."
But Ceasar said he never judged Kinyua and found him smart — able to find parts at Home Depot for inventions Ceasar only thought of in concept. They played PlayStation together. Did push-ups together.
But then Ceasar noticed Kinyua kept a variety of weapons that included a machete and brass knuckles, authorities said. Ceasar said he watched Kinyua get a tattoo of a "portal" on top of his bald head.
On May 19, Rasin said, Kinyua took a nap and heard voices telling him Ceasar was a police snitch who was going to give him up on made-up charges. When Kinyua awoke, he waited for Ceasar inside his campus apartment. When Ceasar arrived, Kinyua surprised him. Caesar said the attack left him with cognitive issues and traumatic optic neuropathy caused by barbed wire striking a nerve.
Kinyua had believed Ceasar was involved in "domestic terrorism," Rasin said.
While Kinyua was on bail after arrest, Harford County authorities said, he killed and dismembered Agyei-Kodie in Kinyua's family home in late May or early June.
Because Kinyua's acceptance of the plea on Wednesday required that he be found competent to participate in court proceedings, delayed hearings in the Harford County case will likely proceed in January, Harford County State's Attorney Joseph I. Cassilly told The Baltimore Sun.
Cassilly said his office is paying a private psychiatrist to review the findings of the state's psychiatrists, because he questions whether Kinyua lacked criminal responsibility at the time he allegedly murdered Agyei-Kodie.
Cassilly said he wonders why Kinyua would dispose of parts of Agyei-Kodie in a dumpster, as he is alleged to have done, if he didn't understand his actions at the time.
"That somebody would take the time to dispose of the body?" Cassilly said. "Where does that act fit in terms of not being criminally responsible?"
A finding that Kinyua was not criminally responsible in the Harford case could open the door for a potential release back into the community — an outcome Cassilly said he is strongly against.
Byron Warnken, a criminal law professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law, said it is unlikely that a private mental health evaluation will reach a different conclusion.
"Another psychiatrist isn't just going to say, 'OK, fine, if you want him to be [criminally responsible], we'll go that way,'" Warnken said. "I assume that a psychiatrist is going to have enough professional integrity that they're not going to do that."
After Kinyua was admitted in June to the Clifford T. Perkins state psychiatric hospital, medical staff recorded him putting buttons in his mouth and claiming he was being fed rotten meat, Rasin said. He believed the police were tapping his phones and talked about inventions he was making.
"He believed he was imprisoned," Rasin said. "He believed his family was dead and replaced with impostors."
All of these documented instances led Rasin to tell the court that she was convinced Kinyua was showing symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia well before the attack on Ceasar.
The judge asked Kinyua if he realized his sanity was deteriorating over the past several months.
"It happened in small bits," the deep-voiced and soft-spoken man said, calling it "almost untraceable."
"Did you tell anybody?" the judge asked.
"I thought it was normal," Kinyua responded.
Copyright © 2013, The Baltimore Sun