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Hitman tied to high-profile Baton Rouge killing found dead in Angola prison cell

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ANGOLA - A killer who was set to testify against a Baton Rouge business man who allegedly hired him to carry out a murder plot back in 2015 was found dead in his prison cell Friday morning. 

WBRZ first reported the West Feliciana Coroner's Office was investigating the death at the Angola prison Friday morning. 

The Department of Corrections confirmed hours later that inmate Tyler Ashpaugh was found unresponsive in his cell around 6:43 a.m. while a guard was making routine rounds. Angola staff tried to administer life-saving aid, but Ashpaugh was soon pronounced dead at the prison infirmary, according to a statement from prison officials.

Ashpaugh, 28, had admitted to his role in killing Taherah Ghassemi, the ex-wife of the accused mastermind, Hamid Ghassemi. Ashpaugh reportedly carried out the killing with the two others, Skyler Williams and Daniel Richter. All three of the accused hitmen were from Livingston Parish.

Ashpaugh took a deal from prosecutors back in 2018 which would have had him plead guilty to manslaughter and testify at Ghassemi's trial in exchange for a lighter sentence.  Ashpaugh was being held in state custody pending the trial.

The state has not yet released details of what caused Ashpaugh's death. 

Read the full statement from the Louisiana Department of Corrections below.

An East Baton Rouge Parish pretrial inmate being housed at Louisiana State Penitentiary has died at the prison today. Tyler Ashpaugh was found unresponsive in his single-man cell around 6:43 this morning. While making routine rounds, correctional officers ordered Ashpaugh to the cell bars. When he failed to respond, staff opened the cell, found Ashpaugh unresponsive, and immediately initiated life saving measures. Prison EMS transported Ashpaugh to the Louisiana State Penitentiary infirmary, where treatment continued and he was eventually pronounced dead.

At the request of the East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney, Sheriff, and Ashpaugh's counsel, the Department of Corrections has housed Ashpaugh as a pretrial inmate since September 8, 2015. He was originally held at Dixon Correctional Institute until January 12, 2021, when he was transferred to Louisiana State Penitentiary. Upon request of the district attorney or sheriff, the Department of Corrections will house high-profile pretrial inmates on a case by case basis.

Louisiana State Penitentiary has launched an investigation. An autopsy will be done to determine the cause of death. At this time, no further details are available.

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