Washington City woman takes plea deal on first day of trial for kidnapping that led to death

In this file photo, Tammy Renee Freeman at a 2016 hearing in 5th District Court in St. George, Utah. Freeman was sentenced Tuesday to up to 15 years in prison for her role in the kidnapping and death of David Heisler. | Photo courtesy of 5th District Court video pool, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — On what was to be the first day of her trial for the kidnapping and murder case of Santa Clara resident David Heisler, Tammy Freeman decided to accept a plea agreement.

Freeman, 55, of Washington City appeared Wednesday before Judge Jeffrey Wilcox in Washington County 5th District Court with her defense attorney Gary Pendleton.

Both parties indicated to the judge that a plea agreement had been reached. However, the terms of the agreement were not disclosed in open court. An entry of plea in the case is set for Tuesday morning.

Freeman and co-defendants Kelley Marie Perry and Francis Lee McCard are accused of kidnapping 30-year-old Heisler from his Santa Clara home on June 27, 2016, and taking him to a desolate area near the Utah-Arizona border where he was either killed or left to die in the extreme heat after being assaulted.

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

After accepting a plea deal in federal court earlier this month, McCard will serve 75 years in prison on one count of kidnapping resulting in death. As a condition of McCard’s plea agreement, in addition to pleading guilty to his federal charge, McCard must plead guilty to first-degree murder and class 2 felony kidnapping charges he faces in Arizona.

A photo of 30-year-old David Heisler and his 6-year-old daughter, photo date and location unspecified | Photo courtesy of David Heisler’s Facebook page, St. George News

Freeman was arrested July 9, 2016, for her alleged role in Heisler’s abduction.

Read more: Heisler kidnapping suspect’s statements suppressed for lack of Miranda warning

Prosecutors theorize that McCard, Freeman and Perry, Heisler’s former girlfriend and mother of his now 8-year-old child, each played a role in the abduction of David Heisler from his home on June 27, 2016.

During the police investigation, McCard allegedly admitted to going to Heisler’s home with the two co-defendants the morning of June 27 with the intent to “scare” Heisler, who had just been awarded sole custody of his daughter, Mariah, on June 13, after years of related legal proceedings with Perry.

McCard and Perry both reportedly 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 before driving to the Utah-Arizona border.

Mohave County Sheriff’s search and rescue team, Arizona Department of Public Safety (helicopter) and personnel from Southern Utah agencies search a portion of the Arizona Strip near Mt. Trumbull for David Heisler, who went missing from his Santa Clara home June 27, 2016. Arizona Strip, Arizona, July 7, 2016 | Photo by Kimberly Scott, St. George News

Read more: Bullet casing, blood found in David Heisler’s car; ex-girlfriend admits involvement in disappearance

McCard reportedly told investigators he drove Heisler to a remote area on the Arizona Strip and had left Heisler alive standing next to a tree about 4.1 miles up BLM Road 105 – approximately 40 miles away from home, according to court documents.

Authorities searched the area, locating zip ties, a pair of sunglasses and a pillowcase, among other items. However, at the time, they found no sign of Heisler.

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.

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

Read more: Body of David Heisler found

Following the kidnapping, an extensive seven-and-a-half-week search for Heisler ensued before coming to an end Aug. 18, 2016, when Heisler’s body was discovered by a geologist in the Mt. Trumbull region of the Arizona Strip.

McCard, Perry and Freeman were charged in Washington County with first-degree felony aggravated kidnapping and aggravated burglary and a second-degree felony theft. The three defendants were later additionally charged with murder and kidnapping in Arizona.

A preliminary hearing for Perry is scheduled for April 9.

Read more: Arizona charges 3 defendants in Heisler kidnapping with first-degree murder

Kenneth and Debbie Heisler, David Heisler’s father and stepmother, have been raising David Heisler’s daughter, Mariah, since the day he went missing.

Just before Freeman’s trial was scheduled to get underway Wednesday, Debbie Heisler said in a statement:

As we consider all we have been through, we know one thing. Our son is busy working through us and around us and it’s because of his love and the love we hold so dear that we get through each day. Sometimes we don’t get through them well, but we get through them and that is all that matters.

Email: kscott@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!

1 Comment

  • General Seamstress February 21, 2018 at 8:59 pm

    Just wondering what the plea deal was for the two women and don’t ppl have to fess up the whole storyline before pleas r accepted? The family needs better answers

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.