On the tidy, well-kept street of Terrapin Terrace in Joppatowne, news of a horrific death in one of those quiet townhouses was the talk of the neighborhood Thursday afternoon.
With news helicopters and photographers circling the area, neighbors seemed to have all heard about the gruesome case of 37-year-old Kujoe Bonsafo Agyei-Kodie, allegedly killed, dismembered and cannibalized by 21-year-old Alexander Kinyua, with whom Mr. Agyei-Kodie lived.
Alexander Kinyua lives in the house with his parents, a brother and a sister, according to information provided at Kinyua's bail hearing earlier in the day. Mr. Agyei-Kodie had been living with the family.
Mary Ellen Murray, who lived several houses down from the Kinyuas, said the parents, Beatrice and Antony, are quiet, "wonderful" people.
"They would give you the shirt off their back," Murray said. "Nobody has anything bad to say about them."
She added she only knew their children from "the kids playing around."
"You wouldn't have expected anything like this out of them," she said. "Everybody's just in shock, more than anything."
She said all the neighbors seem familiar with the details of the alleged murder. Charging documents claim Alexander Kinyua admitted to cutting up Mr. Agyei-Kodie with a knife, ingesting his heart and brain, and keeping the man's head and hands in a metal tin under a blanket in the laundry room.
"That's what everyone's been talking about," Murray said. "As things unfold, it's just harder and harder to take."
Neighbors seemed in disbelief that such an act could happen on their small, tidy street of townhouses, built in 1999 just off the more rural, winding Trimble Road, where there is still a patch of woods across from the small development.
The whole place had been cordoned off with police tape and declared a crime scene Wednesday, as police cruisers blocked off both entrances and denied access while investigators when through the Kinyua home.
On Thursday afternoon, Murray and some other neighbors began talking about how they could help the Kinyuas.
"Hopefully they can get through this thing," Murray said. "You just want to break down and cry, thinking about what they must be going through."
She said she had no clue why something like this might have happened.
"The only person who knows is the person who did it, and we might never know the real reason," she said.
Kenny Day, another neighbor, also found the details of the incident hard to comprehend.
"It just gets more shocking," Day said while gardening around a tree near the sidewalk. "You think it's bad, but then when you find out the details, you think, really? It gets worse?"
He said he did not know the Kinyua family, but, like Murray, said no one had anything bad to say about them.
"I never met them, never once," he said. "It's really sad. I never knew the victim, but holy smokes, nobody deserves it."
Day said it calls to mind the recent murder in Florida where a man was also accused of savagely cannibalizing another man in a highway attack.
"Certainly nobody wants it in their neighborhood, but we've got it, so we have to deal with it," he observed. "For something like this to happen would be shocking for any neighborhood, you know?"
Day also said it could give the neighborhood a worse reputation than it deserves.
"People have already made comments about being fearful with their kids," he said. "It's a knee-jerk reaction. 'The next thing we will see' - the typical [reaction] is, any time any crime happens - 'is you will have the door-to-door alarm salesman.'"
Day said he has lived on the street for 11 years, and thought it would be good if the incident helped bring neighbors together more.
He added the street has been stable and does not have a lot of turnover.
"Most of the residents are families. There's more kids in the neighborhood than there's ever been," he said. "It would be nice if people got out and knew who the hell they lived next to."