Speaking out for the first time about a gruesome killing allegedly committed by a troubled student, Morgan State University's president expressed condolences to the families involved but declined to discuss details of the case or the institution's history with the student.
His comments Thursday came as the university faces questions about whether it should have recognized the student, Alex Kinyua, 21, as a threat based on a disciplinary incident in December and bizarre words he uttered at a public forum in January.
"Let me express on behalf of Morgan State University our deepest condolences for the families affected by the incident in Harford County," President David Wilson said in brief remarks at a regularly scheduled Board of Regents meeting on campus. It was the board's first meeting since Kinyua was charged with cutting up a family friend in his Joppatowne house, and eating his heart and part of his brain.
But then, Wilson added, "On advice of counsel, we cannot discuss the specifics of the case."
University officials have said little about the slaying, which has made international headlines, and members of the board, which oversees Wilson, said they would defer to the president on the issue.
Chairman Dallas R. Evans said he wouldn't have any comment "beyond what Dr. Wilson said."
Vice chair Martin R. Resnick said, "It wouldn't be proper to discuss it. You need one voice."
But Resnick added, "There is no cover-up. We're not going to hide anything. We'll know the facts when we know them."
The slaying victim, Kujoe Bonsafo Agyei-Kodie, 37, had previously been a student at Morgan State, and had been living with Kinyua's family pending his deportation to his home country, Ghana. Kinyua, charged with first-degree murder, is being held without bail and in isolation in the Harford County Detention Center.
Since Kinyua's arrest on May 30, questions have arisen about whether university officials and the suspect's parents should have flagged his erratic behavior earlier. Wilson and other university officials, including the school police chief and head judicial officer, have not addressed those concerns directly.
Crisis management experts have recommended that the university be as forthcoming as possible.
But other board members — the list includes a member of Congress, a senior church pastor, a retired state senator and a business executive — also have not commented. Former NAACP President Kweisi Mfume, a Morgan graduate and board member, said Thursday, "We anticipate that the president will have something to report to all of us soon."
After telling the regents that an attorney had advised against discussing specifics, Wilson added a few more comments.
He reminded those in attendance that the killing did not occur on the Northeast Baltimore campus, but miles away in Harford County. He reiterated the theme of a note sent to students earlier this week, saying, "I want to assure the parents that the safety and well-being of the campus community continues to be our top priority."
Wilson added, "We continue to gather facts and we will update the campus as warranted."
In December, Kinyua had been temporarily barred from campus after being charged with punching holes in an office wall, and an ROTC instructor told campus police that he was "a Virginia Tech waiting to happen," referring to the massacre of 32 students in 2007.
A month later, Kinyua spoke out at a forum attended by students and top school officials in which he talked about "blood sacrifices" in the context of off-campus hazing incidents.
In May, Kinyua was arrested and charged with hitting a young man with a baseball bat wrapped in chains. The victim of the alleged attack said his friends stopped the assailant, who was holding a knife over his unconscious body.
Kinyua was freed on bail May 23 and two days later Agyei-Kodie went missing. On May 25, police said Kinyua's brother found a head and two hands in tins in the basement of their Joppatowne home. Police said the rest of Agyei-Kodie's body was in a trash bin at a nearby church.
Morgan's spokesman, Clinton R. Coleman, said earlier this week that Wilson is leading a review of "every level of the organization that might have had contact with this young man."