White Man Gets Life Sentence for Murdering Two Black Men in 2017
Asst. DA Dana Cummings said Kenneth Gleason was “hunting black men” during his “reign of terror” in September of 2017.
Kenneth Gleason, 27, was found guilty of first-degree murder in April for the killings of Donald Smart and Bruce Coefield and was sentenced this week.
The East Baton Rouge District Attorney’s office did not seek the death penalty in the case because Smart’s family reportedly asked for a life sentence instead, WAFB reported.
The judge in the case, 19th Judicial District Judge Beau Higginbotham, however, said during Monday’s sentencing that the death penalty would be the “appropriate sentence in this matter,” telling Gleason “there is nothing the penal system can do to rehab you.”
Two days before Smart’s murder, Gleason had shot and killed Coefield, 59, as he sat at a bus stop, according to The Advocate.
Gleason was initially charged with second-degree murder of Coefield, but given the perp was accused of multiple homicides, Louisiana law allowed the case to be tried as first-degree murder, WAFB reported.
Gleason was also indicted on two counts of attempted second-degree murder in the non-fatal shooting around the same time period of the murders where he allegedly opened fire into the home of a Black family, reports say. Gleason said he is innocent of the crime he is accused of, according to the judge.
Phone data placed Gleason in the area of all three shootings, as well as DNA found on shell casings and video evidence of him altering his vehicle, which was spotted at each scene, WBRZ reported.
Gleason was not charged with hate crimes, however an FBI agent testified at his trial that Gleason searched the Internet between Sept. 1 and Sept. 16, 2017, for topics such as white nationalism, genocide and Nazi propaganda, according to The Advocate.
Following the announcement of the sentence, members of Smart’s family say they “forgive” Gleason.
Gleason did not speak at the sentencing Monday, which happened to be what would have been Smart’s 53rd birthday.
Smart’s sister, Melinda, said after the sentencing hearing that the life sentence was the “best birthday present ever,” according to WAFB.
"It is telling that in spite of the overwhelming evidence presented at trial, Kenneth Gleason still refuses to take responsibility for his actions and expressed no remorse for these senseless murders and hateful crimes of violence," East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore III said following the sentencing.
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