Convicted killer proclaims innocence in jailhouse interview
RICHMOND – Chiron Francis, an admitted Houston drug dealer who spent more than 22 years as an international fugitive before being convicted earlier this month of a 1994 double murder of two Austin college students, insists he’s not a killer and is seeking a new trial.
“I’m completely innocent,” Francis said, during a telephone interview from the Fort Bend County Jail. “If I’m guilty of anything it’s running when I should have stayed.”
Francis is being defended by attorney L.T. “Butch” Bradt, who filed a motion to overturn Francis’ conviction earlier this month for the shooting deaths of 19-year-old Eric Heidbreder and 20-year-old Douglas Schwartz on April 11, 1994. Francis did not testify at his trial.
Both university students were shot in the head multiple times while sitting in Schwartz’s 1992 red Mazda sports car in a southwest Houston neighborhood that is located within Fort Bend County.
Following the slayings, Francis fled the county and lived in the Dominican Republic, Africa and Venezuela until he was located by the FBI and extradited in 2015.
Francis, 44, was 20 years old at the time of the murders and said he knew Schwartz from night school and had occasionally sold him marijuana.
“Doug never saw me deal large quantities. I was just a nickel and dime dealer. But he wanted to buy more than I could get so I agreed to introduce him to my source,” Francis said.
According to Houston Police Department officers who conducted the initial investigation, the two victims came separately to Houston with more than $15,000 and plans to buy 60 pounds of marijuana.
Schwartz drove from Austin and Heidbreder flew in to Hobby Airport with his roommate, John Paek, and the three men met at a hotel near the Astrodome. Paek stayed behind at the hotel and waited while Schwartz and Heidbreder left to purchase the drugs.
Francis claims his drug source was a member of a Mexican cartel, and claims it was the narcotics trafficker who ultimately killed the two students for the drug money. Francis said he left the country after the shooting because he’d received death threats from cartel members.
“I shouldn’t have run, but I was afraid. I knew they were going to kill me too so I ran. I admit I was dealing drugs and doing things I shouldn’t have been doing,” Francis said. “But, I didn’t kill anyone and I don’t deserve to spend the rest of my life in prison.”
According to Fort Bend County court records, a motion for a new trial was filed that alleges insufficient evidence was presented to the jury and evidentiary errors were made by Judge Brady Elliott, among other things.
Bradt said the motion is the first step in appealing the murder conviction.
Francis was convicted on Nov. 7 for the murders and now faces two 75-year prison sentences.
The request for a new trial will go before Judge Elliot in the coming weeks. If he denies the motion, Bradt can again appeal the conviction first in the Harris County Court of Criminal Appeals.
“In my 41 years of practicing law, this is the first time I’ve had incontrovertible evidence that the police planted evidence and tampered with the evidence,” Bradt said. “I think we have excellent grounds for an appeal.”
Fort Bend prosecutors could not be reached for comment on Friday.