ST. GEORGE — A suspect in the June 2016 abduction of David Heisler, whose body was discovered a month later in a remote area of the Arizona Strip, will serve 75 years in prison after accepting a plea deal in federal court Wednesday.
Francis Lee McCard, 56, of Washington City, was indicted in federal court Monday on one count of kidnapping resulting in death.
McCard and co-defendants Kelley Marie Perry and Tammy Renee Freeman 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.
A change of plea hearing was held Wednesday before Magistrate Judge Robert Braithwaite in St. George, where a resolution for McCard’s state and federal charges was reached after more than a year in the court system.
As a condition of the plea agreement, in addition to pleading guilty to his federal charge, McCard must plead guilty to the first-degree murder charge and class 2 felony kidnapping charge he’s facing in Arizona.
As part of the plea deal, when McCard is sentenced, he will receive 29 years in prison on the federal indictment, 25 years for the Arizona murder conviction and 21 years for the Arizona kidnapping conviction with an order to serve those sentences consecutively.
Following the hearing, David Heisler’s stepmother Debbie Heisler, told St. George News her family is having mixed emotions after McCard pleaded guilty to his part in the kidnapping which led to the death of their son.
“We can’t bring our son back, our lives are forever changed, but we can choose to make a better future for his daughter and for other children who need assistance,” Debbie Heisler said, adding:
We will continue to move forward in peace and healing and are thankful that these trials and justice are finally being served. There is still so much left to get through. We stand tall and continue to honor our son, preserving his memory and cherishing his daughter while supporting her through her life.
Debbie Heisler said her family will not rest until the other two defendants who still need to answer to their charges are properly punished for their part in taking her step-son’s life.
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.
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.
Read more: Body of David Heisler found
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.
McCard, Perry and Freeman were charged in Washington County with first-degree felony aggravated kidnapping and aggravated burglary and a second-degree felony theft. They were later charged with murder and kidnapping in Arizona.
A preliminary hearing for Perry is scheduled for April 9. Freeman’s next hearing is scheduled for Feb. 13.
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