ST. GEORGE — A woman involved in the 2016 kidnapping and death of a Santa Clara father was sentenced Tuesday in St. George.
Tammy Renee Freeman, 55, of Washington City, was sentenced to up to 15 years in prison and ordered to pay $10,000 restitution at a hearing in the 5th District Courthouse.
Freeman pleaded guilty Feb. 27 to felony charges of aggravated kidnapping, aggravated burglary and vehicle theft in connection with the death of David Heisler in 2016.
As part of the plea agreement, the charges for kidnapping and burglary were reduced from first-degree felonies to second-degree felonies.
The Heisler family had been consulted prior to the agreement and agreed to it.
Freeman also had been charged in Arizona with murder and kidnapping, but, per the plea deal, Arizona and the U.S. Attorney’s office did not pursue those charges.
“The heartbreaking part about today is that (Freeman) still wasn’t being accountable for her actions,” said Suzun Abbott, a close friend of the Heisler family who attended Freeman’s hearing. “She was using excuses that we know are not true.”
Freeman was accused of driving the co-defendants, Francis McCard and Kelly Perry, to the home of Heisler, where he was kidnapped. Heisler was taken to the Arizona Strip, where he was beaten and left for dead about 40 miles away from his home.
According to a victim impact statement read at the hearing by Debbie Heisler, David Heisler’s stepmother, the family’s nightmares will “never go away knowing that (David) suffered beyond all comprehension.
“Our son did not have a chance to reach a plea deal with anyone. We know he begged for his life, he was out in the desert in triple-degree weather with no water, no shoes and no shelter.”
Abbott said the person who suffered the most from this tragedy is David Heisler’s daughter Mariah.
The girl’s mother is Perry, who is accused of instigating Heisler’s kidnapping to “scare” him after he had been awarded sole custody of Mariah two weeks before he was kidnapped.
“She lost her father and her mother both on the same day,” Abbott said. “It didn’t have to be that way.”
Abbott is now working with Debbie Heisler to establish the Blue Butterfly House in St. George to provide a place for court-ordered supervised visits between children and parents or other loved ones. The Blue Butterfly House will open May 16 after several days for an open house, Abbott said.
“There are a lot of drug problems and mental health problems across our country, but people don’t realize the child’s perspective,” Abbott said. “They just think, ‘Oh, that parent’s a drug addict; they’re stupid or they’re dumb.’ Well, that person has a child, and that child is innocent.”
In a statement on the Blue Butterfly House website, Debbie Heisler said it’s now her life’s work to serve the community in honor of her son and granddaughter Mariah.
“If we can assist one family in providing a safe environment by which a child can continue a relationship with a loved one, then we have made a difference,” Debbie Heisler’s statement on the website reads.
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