Suspect from 25-year-old murder case dies in jail awaiting trial

IBERVILLE PARISH, LA (WAFB) - The man who was awaiting trial for two decades old murders in Iberville Parish died over the weekend in jail, according to Iberville Parish Sheriff Brett Stassi.

Tommy Francise, 63, of Plaquemine, was arrested in October 2016 for the murders of Curtis “Cochise” Smith in 1991 and George Barrett Jr. in 2002. Both men worked for Francise at one point.

It took 25 years to arrest Francise because Smith’s body was never found. The lead prosecutor on the case, Tony Clayton, had said Francise shot and stuffed Smith’s body into a 55-gallon barrel, poked holes in that barrel and filled it with water before he tossed it in a bayou.

Clayton said that despite not having a body, they had enough circumstantial evidence to arrest Francise based on their own scientific analysis.

“So we put flesh, weight, drilled holes in the barrel, dropped it and waited seven days and the barrel was not where we dropped it off. We found out through scientific evidence that flesh creates gas, the gas caused it to bubble up and it floated down,” Clayton said.

Barrett’s body was found in his own home in 2002, shot twice in the head after he filed a worker’s compensation against Francise.

Judge Alvin Batiste had denied bond for Francise in 2016 saying he would remain behind bars until his trial. In the past two years, Francise was diagnosed with stage IV cancer and his attorneys fought that he was not fit to endure court proceedings and asked that he be released from jail.

Due to the seriousness of the crimes, prosecutors and law enforcement believed that he should remain incarcerated despite his illness.

His trial was initially set for June 12, 2018, but, due to his cancer diagnosis, it kept getting delayed. He was actually set for a motions hearing scheduled for Dec. 3, 2018, but he died in the hospice unit at Hunts Correctional Facility in St. Gabriel Saturday from cancer.

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