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Iberville Parish man charged in decades old cold case murders

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BATON ROUGE – Investigators in Iberville Parish say an arrest has been made Thursday in two decades old cold case murders.

According to Iberville Parish Sheriff Brett Stassi, 61-year-old Tommy Francise was arrested in Lafayette around 4 a.m. Thursday. He was transported to Iberville Parish and was later booked with two counts of second-degree murder.

Stassi said the first homicide happened in 1991 when Francise allegedly had a confrontation with Curtis Smith over stolen equipment. Investigators report that witness testimony claims that the two men were to meet at Francise’s home. Deputies believe Francise shot Smith at the home, placed his body into a 55-gallon barrel and sank it in a body of water in Iberville Parish.

Stassi said that Smith’s body or the barrel were never recovered.

Deputies believe Francise is also responsible for a second murder in 2002. In that case, a man who was allegedly going to sue Francise for being hurt on the job was killed. Investigators recovered the body of George Barrett in that case.

Stassi said information about both cases were pieced together from individuals who knew “bits and pieces.” Investigators were able to fit those pieces together, culminating in a warrant being issued for Francise’s arrest.

“Today is the day of reckoning for Mr. Francise,” Stassi said. “You can imagine: Some of the people investigating this case are no longer alive.”

Stassi said that Francise owned several businesses over the years, including commercial contracting, ice and trucking. Both Smith and Barrett worked for Francise at the time of their deaths.

The investigation was aided by the Discovery Channel’s TV show “The Killing Fields.” Stassi said that Discovery Channel brought technology to Iberville Parish that didn't exist in 1991 to investigate the case.

“This is a hard-fought case,” Stassi said. “We are convinced that we have enough evidence to bring this man to justice.”

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