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Controversial ex-prison guard found dead

| Tuesday, April 24, 2012, 4:34 p.m.

Leroy Bradford Smith, a former prison guard, police officer and convicted killer-for-hire, was found dead Thursday morning in his South Greensburg home, according to the Westmoreland County Coroner's Office.

An autopsy was scheduled Thursday afternoon in Pittsburgh to determine the cause of death, according to Deputy Coroner Sean Hribal.

Smith, 64, was last survivor of three men accused of plotting to kill the now-retired Charles Duritsa of Hempfield, a former regional administrator for the state Department of Environmental Protection, in 1985.

Smith served 17 years in prison for his conviction and had been living in South Greensburg since his release.

Smith was paid $5,000, allegedly by William Fiore, an Allegheny County landfill operator who wanted Duritsa killed because he held Duritsa responsible for permit problems at his Elizabeth Township disposal site.

In the 1980s, the state imposed strict, new regulations on waste disposal. Fiore was angry at Duritsa, who closed his landfill, costing him $300,000 a month in disposal fees.

Smith in 1985 met Nick Zdrale, a Greensburg hearing aid salesman, who introduced Smith to Fiore. Smith stalked Duritsa with a loaded shotgun through Pittsburgh's East Liberty neighborhood, looking for a chance to kill him, according to trial testimony.

The plot unraveled when another person went to police and told them how he drove Smith through Pittsburgh streets, gunning for Duritsa. Smith was indicted by a state grand jury in 1987 along with Fiore and Zdrale.

Fiore, who served 14 years in prison, died in 2003. Fiore was convicted twice -- in 1987 and again in 1993 -- before the state Superior Court threw out the conviction. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court refused to reinstate it following Fiore's death.

Zdrale served 14 months in prison before being acquitted after a retrial. He died in 1999.

In April 1987, Smith was indicted in the murder-for-hire plot. That same day, he was with Gary Coccioletti at a Latrobe gym when Coccioletti was killed during an argument.

Although Smith was not involved in the argument, Coccioletti had been a witness before the grand jury that indicted Smith that day. Coccioletti told the jury that he gave Smith the shotgun Smith was going to use to kill Duritsa.

Smith had a criminal record even before he was charged in the murder-for-hire conspiracy.

Smith served time in a federal prison for selling drugs. In 1980, he tried to broker a deal for $2 million worth of titanium stolen from Dr. Howard Monsour. While competing parties negotiated for the purchase, an argument broke out and Smith settled the bickering by brandishing an automatic rifle.

In 1981, he perjured himself before a county grand jury investigating the titanium theft and then boasted immediately afterward about his lies to an FBI informant. He was convicted in 1982 of perjury.

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