After numerous delays, accused killer Tommy Francise dies in prison

Tommy Francise

Tommy Francise, who was awaiting trial in the murders of two men about 20 years ago died in prison Saturday after a lengthy battle with cancer.

He was most recently set to go to trial last June, but the trial was postponed due to Francise's health issues.

Last June, defense attorney Jarrett Ambeau said Francise had been diagnosed with Stage IV cancer and was unable to undergo the stress and strain of a trial.

Francise, 63, is accused in the killing of two men, one of which happened over 20 years ago, and because of what his attorney said was Francise's terminal illness, Ambeau filed a motion requesting his release from prison based on his health but the judge denied the motion.

Prosecutors were sympathetic to Francise's condition but said they will insist he stand trial.

"I feel sorry for him, but he still has to face justice," said Assistant District Attorney Tony Clayton.

"I can't believe the audacity of a defense attorney to take advantage of a criminal's health in an attempt to get him released from prison," he continued. "This man sucked the life out of two people."

"He will be judged in a court of law here and he will face the judgment of his maker after his death," Clayton said.

Francise had been accused in the death of Curtis "Cochise" Smith, who was last reportedly seen alilve in February 1991 -- his body has never been recovered -- and of George Barrett, who was found dead in his home in Plaquemine in March 2002, apparently dead from the two bullet wounds to his head.

Both men worked for Francise. Smith, who worked as a roofer for the accused killer, and Francise believed he was stealing equipment from him. After allegedly killing the man, Francise allegedly stuffed his body into a 55-gallon drug, weighted it down and dumped it into Bayou Pigeon, according to authorities.

Francise then disposed of Smith's body by stuffing it into a 55-gallon drum that he weighted down and dumped into Bayou Pigeon, authorities have said.

Barrett's death is believed by investigators to have occurred after he filed a worker's compensation lawsuit against Francise, who went to Barrett's home and shot him. His body was found after he failed to make a court appearance to testify in the case.

Francis pleaded not guilty to both murders. His trial was originally set to begin June 12 but was postponed at his attorney's request to allow Francise to undergo cancer-related surgery.