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Kenneth Gleason’s red Ford Focus is focal point in day 5 of double murder trial

Updated: Apr. 20, 2021 at 7:08 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Kenneth Gleason’s red Ford Focus became the center point of the double murder trial against him.

Detective testimony repeatedly through the trial referenced a red car seen driving away from both crime scenes. Lead prosecutor Dana Cummings began tying that car to Gleason on Tuesday, April 20, showing the jury surveillance video from the parking lot of Custom Security, which showed a red Ford Focus pull-in.

The video, which was the clearest of any surveillance video shown thus far, showed a white male dressed in black get out of the car and remove the license plate. It then showed the same person put duct tape over the identifying features of the car, getting back inside, and driving away. According to the state, this took place prior to the death of Bruce Cofield in Sept. of 2017.

When Gleason was arrested several days later, his red Ford was taken to be searched by investigators. In court, Michelle Olin with the Louisiana State Police Crime Lab testified small pieces of duct tape were found left on certain parts of the car, including on the chrome lettering. She said a wad of duct tape was also found inside the car.

While Gleason’s car became the focal point in his trial on Tuesday, the state also introduced body camera footage from a responding officer. The video, which was extremely graphic, showed Donald Smart’s bullet-riddled body lying in a pool of blood in the middle of Alaska Street near LSU. Smart, who was still breathing when officers arrived, died shortly after paramedics arrived. In the video, the officer can be heard saying a witness told him a white man in a red car was seen driving away. He also said that the witness told him the suspect appeared to shoot Smart from his car, then walk to him and continue shooting him while standing over Smart.

The trial adjourned shortly after pictures were shown of the inside of Gleason’s room. During a search of his parent’s house, investigators found a shotgun, tactical boots, several writings in German, and a book about Heinrich Himmler, a leader in Nazi Germany.

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Noteworthy from Tuesday, lead detective Robert Cook with the Baton Rouge Police Department found himself in several heated exchanges with defense attorney Jarrett Ambeau. At issue was testimony Ambeau did not see as consistent and a warrant request that was signed by Cook, which ultimately provided false or misleading information to the judge. The warrant issued for Gleason’s arrest referenced forensic evidence matching the ballistics from the 9mm shells found at both murder scenes to shells found at a shooting in which Gleason allegedly opened fire on a neighbor’s home, notably the house of the only black family on the street. According to Ambeau, though, the forensic report was only preliminary and once the final report was made, there were discrepancies.

After Tuesday’s proceedings, Ambeau said he planned to address the red car that was the focal point of the day’s testimony and the discrepancies once the state wraps up its case and the defense gets to present its side.

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