ANGOLA, Louisiana (AP) – A white man convicted of the apparently random murder of a black man was found dead Wednesday morning shortly after being transferred to Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola to begin a sentence of life imprisonment, authorities said.
Ken Pastorick, spokesperson for the State Department of Public Safety and Corrections, said in a statement that Kenneth Gleason’s body was discovered by guards shortly after midnight. He said corrections and local law enforcement were investigating a suicide.
“While on routine rounds, correctional officers discovered Gleason unconscious and hanged in his cell,” the statement from Pastorick said.
Gleason, 27, from Baton Rouge, was transferred to Angola on Monday. He was alone in a cell, under a 14-day routine quarantine for COVID-19 for new detainees, Pastorick said, adding that an autopsy was scheduled.
Pastorick declined to divulge further details or say where Gleason was being held prior to being transferred to the penitentiary.
Gleason was convicted of first degree murder in April for the murder of Donald Smart. Smart, 49, was gunned down in a park near Louisiana State University on his way to his night shift as a restaurant dishwasher in September 2017.
Gleason had also been charged in the fatal shooting of Bruce Cofield, 59, a homeless man who sat at a bus stop on a busy Baton Rouge street two days before Smart was killed.
Evidence was also presented during the trial that Gleason fired shots through the front door of the only black family who lived on the same suburban street as he and his parents.
He was not charged with a hate crime, but an FBI agent said Gleason searched the Internet during the crimes for topics such as 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 said they believed the two murders were random. Detectives found no evidence that Gleason knew either of the men.