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Kenneth Gleason sentenced to life in prison for 2017 murders

Published: Aug. 23, 2021 at 10:31 AM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - An East Baton Rouge Parish judge has sentenced Kenneth Gleason to life in prison for the September 2017 murders of Donald Smart and Bruce Coefield.

A jury found Gleason guilty of first-degree murder for the murders of Smart and Cofield on April 27.

The East Baton Rouge District Attorney’s office did not seek the death penalty in this case after Smart’s family reportedly asked for a life sentence instead.

19th Judicial District Judge Beau Higginbotham said during the hearing on Monday, Aug. 23 the death penalty would be the “appropriate sentence in this matter,” adding “there is nothing the penal system can do to rehab you,” said Higginbotham.

“There is nothing the penal system can do to rehab you,” Judge Higginbotham said to Gleason during sentencing.

Representatives from the Smart and Cofield families testified during the hearing. Renee McCoy, Smart’s sister told the judge she “prays his death is not in vain,” asking for a strict sentence, “keeping the defendant from committing heinous acts again.”

McCoy also told Gleason “we forgive you,” and to “try Jesus.” Monday would have been Smart’s 53rdbirthday, McCoy wished her brother a happy birthday. Smart’s sister, Melinda Smart said after the sentencing hearing that the life sentence was the “best birthday present ever.”

In a statement from Cofield’s brother, Vincent Cofield, he told the court his brother was a good man who had a successful career before falling into addiction and ultimately becoming homeless after his divorce. Cofield told the judge his brother had an unrelenting love for his family, asking for the mandatory life sentence.

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Gleason was also charged with second-degree murder in the death of Bruce Coefield, but given Gleason was accused of multiple homicide Louisiana law allowed the case to be tried as first-degree murder. He was also indicted on two counts of attempted second-degree murder in the non-fatal shooting on Sandy Ridge Drive.

Both victims were black men. He was also indicted on two counts of attempted second-degree murder in the non-fatal shooting on Sandy Ridge Drive.

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Prosecutors say race played a key role in this case. Asst. DA Dana Cummings said Gleason was “hunting black men” during his five-day “reign of terror” in Baton Rouge back in September of 2017.

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