Fort Bend County jury sentences man to 75 years for 1994 double-murder
Chiron Francis, 44, was convicted and sentenced to two 75-year prison sentences Tuesday, Nov. 7, for the April 1994 double-homicides of 19-year-old Eric Heidbreder and 20-year-old Douglas Schwartz, college students from Austin.
The victims were shot in the head while sitting in Schwartz’s 1992 red Mazda sports car in an area of southwest Houston that lies in Fort Bend County.
Francis, who was 28 years old at the time, fled the county following the murders and lived in the Dominican Republic, Africa and Venezuela until he was located by the FBI and extradited back to Fort Bend County in 2015.
During closing arguments, defense attorney Keysha Lynn Booker argued Francis was innocent and called into question the work of Houston Police Department officers.
“When these murders were investigated, important physical evidence was not collected and evidence that was collected was not preserved,” Booker said and pointed out investigators didn’t check for fingerprints and ignored a partial bloody footprint seen in a crime scene photograph.
During questioning by federal agents in a Venezuelan jail, Francis denied the murders and claimed he fled the country after members of the “Mexican mob” threatened him and his family.
But, assistant district attorneys Mark Hanna and Matthew Banister poked numerous holes in Francis’ story, questioning why he would leave family members behind if he felt they were in danger and reminded jurors a former friend testified Francis had confessed to him shortly after the shooting.
After roughly five hours of deliberation on Monday, Nov. 6, the jury ruled Francis was guilty. During Tuesday’s sentencing hearing, prosecutors argued Francis showed no remorse and deserved the maximum sentence of 99 years for each murder count.
“The defense council would have you think only the murder of angels deserve justice,” Banister told jurors. “Doug and Eric made a poor decision to trust someone they considered a friend. But, they didn’t choose to die. Chiron Francis made that decision.”
After approximately four hours of deliberation, the jury sentenced Francis to 75 years in prison for each murder. Fort Bend County District 268 Judge Brady Elliot ruled the two sentences would be served concurrently.
“Mr. Francis, you’ve been away a long time and you’ll have a long time to think about what you’ve done,” Elliot said after the ruling.
Francis was not eligible for the death penalty due to the terms of an extradition agreement set in place by Venezuelan government officials.