Robert Gleason Jr was already convicted of murdering two people and vowed to kill again if he wasn’t sentenced to death, but that didn’t bother his new prison friend or the man’s mother, who was confident her son would be safe in the state’s most secure prison.
Now authorities say Gleason’s new prison buddy is his latest victim, and the inmate’s mother is questioning why prison officials didn’t take Gleason’s threat to kill again seriously.
“You knew this man threatened to kill, and you gave him the opportunity to kill my son,” Kim Strickland said in an interview days after her son, 26-year-old Aaron Cooper, was killed.
Cooper told his mother he and Gleason talked about God and other things to pass the time in the segregation unit at Red Onion State Prison, a super maximum prison in the mountains of southwest Virginia.
Gleason gave him stamps and paper to write home, and Gleason even wrote to Strickland asking her to be his pen pal.
“I don’t want you thinking that I’m talking with a Satan worshipper or the boogeyman,” Cooper wrote to his mother on June 24. “He’s just another guy locked up.”
Just over a month later, prosecutors say Gleason lured Cooper to the thick chain-link fence dividing their cages in the recreation yard on July 28 saying he had a gift: a gang necklace. Instead, it was a noose fashioned from torn bed sheets that he used to strangle Cooper, Wise County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ron Elkins said.
Gleason, 40, is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 31 for killing another cellmate, Harvey Watson Jr, last year. Gleason already was serving a life sentence then for killing another man in 2007. Elkins said he likely would wait until after the sentencing later this month to charge Gleason with Cooper’s death.
However, Strickland, like some of Watson’s family members, said she did not want Gleason to get the death penalty — not out of mercy, but because being executed is what he wants.
“If he wanted to die, why didn’t he commit suicide?” asked Strickland, clenching her fists and gritting her teeth, her voice rising. “Why do we have to kill him?”
“They’re going to have to make new provisions to keep that man, but he should rot in prison, die in prison. That’s where he belongs,” she said.
Strickland questions why guards didn’t stop her son’s death.
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