David Heisler kidnapping suspect pleads not guilty; biological mother shares memories of son

Francis Lee McCard at an Aug. 8 preliminary hearing in 5th District Court. McCard pleaded not guilty in court Tuesday to charges of aggravated kidnapping, aggravated burglary and theft of a motor vehicle, St. George, Utah | Photo courtesy of 5th District Court video pool, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A suspect in the abduction of David Heisler, whose body was discovered Aug. 18 on the Arizona Strip, pleaded not guilty in court Tuesday to charges of aggravated kidnapping, aggravated burglary and theft of a motor vehicle.

The body of missing 30-year-old David Heisler was found by a Bureau of Land Management geologist in the Mt. Trumbull region of the Arizona Strip, Mohave County, Arizona, Aug. 18, 2016 | Photo by Michael Durrant, St. George News
The body of missing 30-year-old David Heisler was found by a Bureau of Land Management geologist in the Mt. Trumbull region of the Arizona Strip, Mohave County, Arizona, Aug. 18, 2016 | Photo by Michael Durrant, St. George News

Francis Lee McCard, 55, appeared in 5th District Court with his attorney Ariel Taylor before Judge Eric Ludlow in St. George to enter not guilty pleas to all three felony counts.

During an Aug. 8 preliminary hearing, the court found that the State had met the burden of proof according to all charges and bound McCard over for arraignment.

On June 27, 30-year-old Heisler was allegedly assaulted and kidnapped from his Santa Clara home. An extensive seven-and-a-half-week search for Heisler ensued, and came to a close when Heisler’s body was discovered by a Bureau of Land Management geologist in the Mt. Trumbull region of the Arizona Strip.

An autopsy conducted five days later by the Mohave County Medical Examiner’s Office in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, confirmed the badly decomposed body was that of Heisler, whose cause of death is pending further investigation.

A federal indictment is being sought in the case, officials said.

Surviving the death of a son

Following the news of her son’s death, David Heisler’s biological mother, Mary Brace, of Phoenix, Arizona, expressed her appreciation and thanks to the Washington County community, prosecuting attorney Zachary Weiland and detectives with the Santa Clara-Ivins Police Department for their support, time and effort in finding her son.

David Heisler as a child standing with his cousin, circa 1995, location unspecified | Photo courtesy of Mary Brace, St. George News
David Heisler (right) as a child standing with his cousin, circa 1995, location unspecified | Photo courtesy of Mary Brace, St. George News

“While it has been very difficult for me to be so far away from the Santa Clara area, it has been a comfort to me to see so many people coming out to show their support,” Brace told St. George News. “I join David’s father and Stepmother, Kenneth and Debbie Heisler, in their appreciation for the continued support as we face the long and difficult road of mourning our beloved David.”

Even though it has been 30 years, Brace said she remembers the birth of her son, David, “as if it was only yesterday.”

“He was born at 8 a.m. He was 8 pounds, 13 ounces of my flesh and blood and I loved every ounce of him,” Brace said. “I had a rocking chair that I had painted white which I rocked him in for many months while I soothed him through his bouts with asthma.”

David Heisler with his daughter Mariah, location and date unspecified | Photo courtesy of David Heislers Facebook page, St. George News
David Heisler with his daughter Mariah, location and date unspecified | Photo courtesy of David Heislers Facebook page, St. George News

As he grew older, Brace said her son took an interest in World Wrestling Entertainment which she said he loved to talk about with his older brother, Billy. The two also loved talking professional baseball together, even long after David Heisler moved to Utah with his father, Brace said.

As time went on, David Heisler’s pride and joy became his daughter Mariah, Brace said, adding that she enjoyed hearing her son’s enthusiasm about becoming a dad, and that she always looked forward to seeing photos of him with Mariah.

Now, Brace is living the nightmare of trying to cope with her son’s tragic death.

“As his mother, his murder has been worse than a bad dream,” she said, and added:

Since his kidnapping, I have walked through my days with what feels like a giant hole in my chest. As preparations for his memorial begin and more court dates start filling the calendar, it is not a distraction and does not take away the fact that my child was stolen. Any justice we see in the prosecution of the three who stand accused of my son’s murder will always be hollow as it does not bring him back to us.

The accused

McCard and Heisler’s former girlfriend Kelley Marie Perry, 31, who is the mother of Heisler’s 6-year-old child, were arrested July 5 on charges including assault and kidnapping of Heisler. They are the last known people to see Heisler alive, according to the Santa Clara-Ivins Police Department.

Francis Lee McCard, Kelley Marie Perry and Tammy Freeman have been arrested in the alleged assault and kidnapping of 30-year-old David Heisler, booking photos posted July 2016 | Photos courtesy of Washington County Sheriff's Office, St. George News
Francis Lee McCard, Kelley Marie Perry and Tammy Freeman have been arrested in the alleged assault and kidnapping of 30-year-old David Heisler, booking photos posted July 2016 | Photos courtesy of Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

During McCard’s preliminary hearing, Sgt. Jaron Studley testified that during the investigation, McCard admitted to going to Heisler’s home the morning of June 27 with co-defendants Perry and Tammy Renee Freeman, 54, who was arrested July 9 for her alleged involvement in the crime. Studley testified that McCard said his intent was to go to Heisler’s home to “scare” Heisler.

Mohave County Sheriff's search and rescue team, Arizona Department of Public Safety (helicopter) and personnel from Southern Utah agencies spent Thursday searching a portion of the Arizona Strip near Mt. Trumbull for 30-year-old David Heisler. Heisler went missing from his Santa Clara home June 27 and two suspects have since confessed to abducting him. Francis Lee McCard allegedly told police he dropped Heisler off in the desert location, being searched, alive. Arizona Strip, Arizona, July 7, 2016 | Photo by Kimberly Scott, St. George News
Mohave County Sheriff’s search and rescue team, Arizona Department of Public Safety (helicopter) and personnel from Southern Utah agencies spent Thursday searching a portion of the Arizona Strip near Mt. Trumbull for 30-year-old David Heisler. Heisler went missing from his Santa Clara home June 27 and two suspects have since confessed to abducting him. Francis Lee McCard allegedly told police he dropped Heisler off in the desert location, being searched, alive. Arizona Strip, Arizona, July 7, 2016 | Photo by Kimberly Scott, St. George News

McCard and Perry both admitted to tying up Heisler, assaulting him in his home, placing a pillowcase over his head and forcing him into the backseat of his car, according to police.

McCard told investigators he drove Heisler to a remote area on the Arizona Strip and left Heisler standing next to a tree – approximately 40 miles from St. George.

In the hours after the kidnapping, McCard, Perry and Freeman allegedly gambled in Mesquite with money stolen from Heisler’s home. Based on surveillance footage, Perry and Freeman also allegedly helped McCard disguise his appearance by shaving his head in a bathroom at the Virgin River Casino after ditching Heisler’s car in Beaver Dam, Arizona.

Fighting for Mariah

At the time of his disappearance, Heisler had just been awarded sole custody of his daughter, Mariah, after years of related legal proceedings. During a June 13 bench trial, the 5th District Court in Washington County ordered sole custody of Heisler and Perry’s daughter to David Heisler.

In the court’s trial minute orders, it states:

The Court finds that the Respondent (Perry) has shown substantial lapse of judgement in the past. … The Court finds that the Respondent attempts to plant ideas in to the child’s mind, which would harm the relationship between the child and petitioner (David Heisler).

David Heisler with his daughter Mariah, location and date unspecified | Photo courtesy of the Justice for David Heisler Facebook page, St. George News
David Heisler with his daughter Mariah, location and date unspecified | Photo courtesy of the Justice for David Heisler Facebook page, St. George News

The 5th District Court found David Heisler’s parents, with whom he lived at the time he was abducted, a major stabilizing factor in the matters it considered in making its custody rulings.

“The Court also finds that the closest bond is between the child and her Step-grandmother (Debbie Heisler),” the trial minutes state.

Perry was given supervised parenting time with her daughter. According to court documents, Perry was “extremely upset” about the custody order, to which McCard allegedly told Perry, “I will fix this.”

Mariah’s Army

Members of the community attended McCard’s arraignment Tuesday wearing teal shirts that read “#HeislerStrong” and “#MariahsArmy” as a show of support for the Heisler family.

Heisler StrongIn the months following David Heisler’s disappearance, a Mariah’s Army Facebook page was created to honor David Heisler and his daughter, help raise funds – initially, to help with search efforts; now, to apply toward funeral expenses and Mariah’s financial needs – and to bring awareness to domestic violence.

Supporters of the Heisler family may purchase window decals for a $10 donation while T-shirts are offered for a $20 donation.

Additionally, Cliffside Restaurant located at 511 South Airport Road where David Heisler worked will be holding a fundraiser Sept. 13 in which 15 percent of the day’s sales will be donated to the Heisler family, according to the restaurant.

Email: kscott@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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9 Comments

  • peanutz714 September 6, 2016 at 9:16 pm

    Who is the lawyer for this scumbag ? I suspect a murder charge is not far behind.

  • Tina September 6, 2016 at 9:40 pm

    David was a great daddy to Mariah he will be missed the world has lost a angel

  • ladybugavenger September 7, 2016 at 12:40 pm

    Ok, so this scumbag has no remorse and isn’t taking responsibility for his actions and is going to waste time and tax payers money for a trial. #loserisguilty

    • .... September 7, 2016 at 4:49 pm

      Yep ! well at least we know where our tax dollars are going LOL ! Oklahoma Rocks ! hiya ladybug ♡♡♡

      • ladybugavenger September 7, 2016 at 5:25 pm

        I love it here! Bonus: Gas prices are $1.89 a gallon for 87…….$1.39 for 85.

  • Bob September 7, 2016 at 6:05 pm

    Kelley Marie Perry looks like she’s done years and years of hard meth use

    Francis Lee McCard is one creepy lookin’ dude, but the sunglasses help

    • .... September 8, 2016 at 7:00 pm

      Oh wow Bob maybe somebody can hire you as make up director. I feel terrible seeing you upset about the way people look. .you have my sympathy. .God bless you Bob !

  • Bob September 7, 2016 at 6:11 pm

    was David Heisler an addict at one time or just his ex-wife? gotta wonder how he got mixed up with that crew

    • .... September 8, 2016 at 7:03 pm

      Well maybe someone can hire you as a private investigator Bob.

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