"I said, 'Sure, take it, but bring it back,' " Pastor Eric T. Campbell, of Baltimore's Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church on East North Avenue, recounted Sunday.
Campbell said he was unsure whether Kinyua did take a Bible with him last Sunday, three days before the Morgan State University electrical engineering student was charged with killing 37-year-old Kujoe Bonsafo Agyei-Kodie and confessed to eating some of the man's internal organs.
Harford County Sheriff's Office detectives also alleged that Kinyua, 21, left some of Agyei-Kodie's body parts in a trash bin at a church near the Joppa townhouse he shared with his family and Agyei-Kodie.
Kinyua remains held without bail at the Harford County Detention Center. Meanwhile, his family and friends are struggling to understand how the young man could be implicated in murder and cannibalism. His church says it is supporting him and his family, even as members are reeling from the gruesome allegations, church leaders said.
The slaying — which is believed to have occurred in the Joppa townhouse — shocked the church as well as the campus of Morgan State, where Kinyua's father is a physics lecturer.
"How can anyone do what he did, unless there were mental issues?" Campbell wondered.
Kinyua has not been convicted of a crime.
Kinyua's parents, Antony and Beatrice Kinyua, are members of Faith Evangelical, where Antony Kinyua serves as the church's director of learning ministry, Campbell said. The elder Kinyua offered to resign from the church over the publicity surrounding the case, Campbell said. But Campbell said he wouldn't let him.
"We're going to stand with the family," Campbell said outside his church on Sunday. "We're going to support the family, and Alex, too."
Campbell described Alexander Kinyua's parents as "strong, spiritual people" who are "very grounded," with two other sons and a daughter. Alexander did not frequently come to church, Campbell said.
Antony and Beatrice Kinyua attended church Sunday but declined, through Campbell, to be interviewed.
Kinyua's parents turned to their faith for support as their son faced assault charges earlier in May. Less than a week before Agyei-Kodie was reported missing, Kinyua was accused of brutally beating a Morgan student with a baseball bat and was barred from campus.
His parents tried to organize a fundraiser to pay for his legal defense in connection with that incident. But the fundraiser, which was to have been held at another Northeast Baltimore church, was canceled by that church last week.
"The father was organizing it and he asked for a place to hold it," said the Rev. John Ndung'u Karanja, of the International Christian Community Church on Harford Road. "They were not members."
The case of the missing roommate began unfolding last weekend.
The elder Kinyua reported Agyei-Kodie missing last Saturday, a day after the Ghana native was last seen as he prepared to go for an early-morning jog. Detectives with the Harford County sheriff's office investigated his disappearance for days, checking hospitals and jails.
Agyei-Kodie had met Kinyua's father while pursuing a master's degree at Morgan, according to the Associated Press. Agyei-Kodie was trying to re-establish his educational status so he wouldn't be deported to Ghana over a criminal conviction. Antony Kinyua offered him a place to live, the AP reported.
On Tuesday night, Kinyua's brother Jarrod found human remains — a head and two hands — in tins in the basement of the Joppa townhouse. He told his father, who called police. Detectives interviewed Alexander Kinyua.
According to charging documents, Kinyua admitted to killing and dismembering Agyei-Kodie and to eating his heart and pieces of his brain.
"It was a shock to the whole congregation," said Ronald J. Charles Sr., a vice president at Faith Evangelical. "The whole congregation is pulling together to support the family. We may not understand it, but we have to keep them in our prayers."