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Crime News

Louisiana Inmate Convicted For ‘Hunting Black Men’ Found Hanging In Angola Prison Cell

Kenneth Gleason, convicted in a series of 2017 killings targeting Black men, was found dead in his prison cell at Louisiana State Penitentiary on Sept. 22. 

By Dorian Geiger
Inmate Found Dead In Louisiana Prison, Suicide Suspected

A Louisiana man who was convicted in a series of racially motivated killings was found dead from an apparent suicide in his prison cell this week.

Kenneth Gleason, who received a life sentence in the 2017 murders of two Black men earlier this year, was found hanging in his cell from a bedsheet wrapped around his neck around midnight on Wednesday, according to his lawyer.

“While making routine rounds, correctional officers discovered Gleason unresponsive and hanging in his cell,” Ken Pastorick, a spokesperson for the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, also told Oxygen.com

Prison staff performed emergency life-saving measures but were unable to resuscitate Gleason. He was later pronounced dead. A preliminary autopsy wasn’t immediately available.

Gleason, a new inmate at Angola, arrived at the notorious state prison only days before his death. No one else was in his cell due to mandatory quarantine measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Gleason had been transferred from an East Baton Rouge Parish jail on Monday, according to correctional officials and online jail records.

The West Feliciana Parish Sheriff's Office and Louisiana State Penitentiary are now conducting an investigation into Gleason’s death. Officials declined to release further details on Thursday.

Gleason’s attorney, Jarrett Ambeau, said his client’s death was highly suspicious — and accused correctional officials of providing conflicting accounts of his death. 

“Something’s wrong — it doesn’t make any sense,” Ambeau told Oxygen.com on Thursday.

Ambreau, who described the nature of Gleason’s crimes as “heinous,” said the timing of his client’s death is abnormally suspect. 

“Months after his sentencing he goes to Angola for less than 48 hours and he’s expired,” Ambeau added. “It seemed like a lie and that we would have to see if something was being covered up."

Gleason was previously convicted on two counts of second-degree murder in the 2017 killings of Donald Smart and Bruce Coefield, two Black men, according to The Advocate. Prosecutors accused him of “hunting Black men,” despite Gleason’s insistence he only wanted to “help people.”

“I want to tell you my side of the story but I cannot do that at this time…I am not the monster that people think I am,” Gleason told police.

DNA evidence and ballistics tests on spent rounds connected to the shooting implicated Gleason in the series of racially targeted murders.

"Forensic science evidence is very difficult to overcome," Ambeau previously said during the trial, CBS News reported.

Gleason was also indicted on two counts of attempted second-degree murder for allegedly opening fire on a Black neighbor’s home in a separate incident. 

Gleason had faced the death penalty in the pair of slayings, but prosecutors didn’t seek capital punishment after Smart’s family advocated against his execution.

District Judge Beau Higginbotham, who presided over the case, apparently disagreed, however, stating the "appropriate sentence" would be the death penalty.

“There is nothing the penal system can do to rehab you,” Judge Higginbotham told Gleason at his sentencing, WAFB-TV reported.