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Accused Md. cannibal deemed incompetent to stand trial

By Justin Fenton and Allan Vought, The Baltimore Sun –

BALTIMORE — Alexander Kinyua, the college student accused of killing a family friend and ingesting his heart and brain, has been declared incompetent to stand trial, according to court records.

State’s Attorney Joseph I. Cassilly said in an Aug. 13 letter that prosecutors had reviewed a report from Clifton T. Perkins Hospital, Maryland’s maximum-security psychiatric hospital, and agreed that Kinyua should be found incompetent to stand trial without a court hearing on the matter.

Kinyua, 21, has pleaded not criminally responsible on charges of first-degree murder and use of a dangerous weapon in connection with the May killing of Kujoe Bonsafo Agyei-Kodie, who had been staying with his family in their Joppatowne home.

Police said Kinyua told investigators that he killed Agyei-Kodie and ate his heart and part of his brain. Some of his remains were found in metal tins in the home, police said.

The finding that Kinyua is not competent to stand trial does not mean he has been found not criminally responsible, Maryland’s equivalent of an insanity finding. Instead, the court has found that he is unable to contribute to his defense, and will be treated at Perkins until he is found competent.

Dr. David Helsel, the superintendent of Perkins Hospital, could not comment on specifics of Kinyua’s treatment. But he said that generally, a large majority of patients — particularly those with a psychiatric disorder rather than an intellectual disability — will eventually receive treatment that allows them to face trial.

“In some instances it’s simply a knowledge deficit about how court works,” Helsel said. “More commonly, the issue is that the persons may be having difficult with distinguishing fantasy from reality, or may have delusional thoughts about what the judge’s role is or who the judge is. We treat the underlying illness that is causing them to have distorted beliefs.”

Helsel said that is generally accomplished through medication and various forms of therapy such as psychotherapy, group therapy, or family therapy.

He pointed to the case of Jared Lee Loughner, the Arizona man charged in the shooting that injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Arrested in January 2011, he was found incompetent to stand trial in May 2011, and a judge ruled he could be forcibly medicated with antipsychotic drugs. More than a year later, in August of this year, he was deemed competent to stand trial and pleaded guilty to 19 counts.

Cassilly said he had no reason to dispute the findings of Perkins staff and will continue to await word on Kinyua’s mental state.

He said he has challenged such findings in the past, such as the case of child murderer Jamaal K. Abeokuto, who prosecutors believed was “faking” his mental illness. He was found competent to stand trial, and received the death penalty. The verdict was later reversed by the Court of Appeals, and he received life without parole.

Kinyua’s attorney, Donald Daneman, has not responded to requests for comment since the arrest and an employee who answered the phone at his law office Thursday said he will not be commenting.

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