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Official: Convicted killer starting life sentence found dead

September 23, 2021 GMT

ANGOLA, La. (AP) — A white man convicted of the apparently random killing of a Black man was found dead early Wednesday shortly after being moved to the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola to begin a life sentence, authorities said.

Ken Pastorick, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety and Corrections, said in a statement that the body of Kenneth Gleason was discovered by guards shortly after midnight. He said the corrections department and local law enforcement are investigating it as a suicide.

“While making routine rounds, correctional officers discovered Gleason unresponsive and hanging in his cell,” Pastorick’s statement said.

Gleason, 27, of Baton Rouge, was transferred to Angola on Monday. He was alone in a cell, under a routine 14-day quarantine for COVID-19 for new inmates, Pastorick said, adding an autopsy is planned.

Pastorick declined to release any other details or say where Gleason was being held before being moved to the penitentiary.

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Gleason was found guilty of first-degree murder in April for the killing of Donald Smart. Smart, 49, was shot in a park near Louisiana State University as he was walking to his overnight shift as a restaurant dishwasher in September 2017.

Gleason also had been charged in the fatal shooting of Bruce Cofield, 59, a homeless man who was sitting at a bus stop on a busy street in Baton Rouge two days before Smart was killed.

Evidence also was presented during the trial that Gleason fired gunshots through the front door of the only Black family that lived on the same suburban street as him and his parents.

He wasn’t charged with a hate crime, but an FBI agent testified that Gleason searched the internet around the time of the crimes for topics including Nazi propaganda and white nationalism. Law enforcement told The Associated Press that officers who searched his home found a handwritten copy of an Adolf Hitler speech.

Law enforcement officials have said they believe the two killings were random. Detectives found no evidence that Gleason was acquainted with either of the men.