Carlton Francis Murders Twins In Florida

Carlton Francis was sentenced to death by the State of Florida for the murders of sixty six year old twins

According to court documents Carlton Francis would break into a neighbors home where he would stab to death Claire Brunt and Bernice Flegel before robbing the home and stealing their vehicles

Carlton Francis would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to death

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Carlton Francis is incarcerated at Union Correctional Institution

Carlton Francis Case

On July 24, 1997, Claire Brunt and Bernice Flegel, 66-year-old twin sisters, were found dead with multiple stab wounds in their West Palm Beach home.   Both women were widows and had lived together since 1983.

The defendant, Carlton Francis, 22 years old at the time of the events, lived next door to the victims with his mother, Eleanor Goods.   The defendant’s 8-year-old nephew, R.G., his 14-year-old nephew, G.G., and his elderly aunt also lived in the house with Francis and his mother.   Mrs. Goods and the deceased twin sisters were good friends who would frequently go to garage sales together.   In addition, Mrs. Flegel and Mrs. Brunt would often provide Francis rides to school or to pay bills.   They would also permit him to change the oil in their 1980’s tan Pontiac Grand Prix.

Susan Wood, Mrs. Brunt’s adult daughter, testified that she remembered being at her mother’s house on one occasion when Francis approached the house, and looked through the vertical blinds draping the front window.   Susan explained that Francis studied the inside of the house for a few minutes and finally proceeded to the door.   She remembered that he engaged in similar behavior on another occasion.

The evidence introduced at trial established that between 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. on the day the bodies of the twin sisters were discovered, Susan telephoned her mother to inquire whether she and her aunt would be home between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. that day because Susan had planned to visit.

Earlier that morning, the neighboring children, R.G. and G.G., were swimming in the pool located in Francis’ backyard and observed Mrs. Brunt, in her backyard, who waved to the children.   The defendant walked out of the house and into the pool area carrying a green duffle bag on his shoulder.   R.G. observed what he described as a silver pipe sticking out of the bag.   Francis told the children that he was going to play basketball and he then reentered the house.

Later, after the swimming activity had ended, R.G. went to the front yard to ride his bicycle.   While riding his bike, he saw Mrs. Flegel walk out to her front yard and retrieve a newspaper from a recycling bin.   Thereafter, while riding his bike, R.G. saw Francis leave his home through the front door wearing a white T-shirt and blue shorts and carrying the green duffle bag that R.G. had seen him with earlier.   The young boy noticed a dark red spot on Francis’ T-shirt near the shoulder as he watched his uncle walk away in the direction of the victim’s home.   Later that day, the defendant called R.G. and asked him if he had seen what was inside the green duffle bag.   R.G. responded that he had not.   R.G. was still out riding his bike when he saw Susan and her son arrive at the victims’ home.

Mrs. Brunt’s adult daughter and eight-year old grandson arrived at the home of the deceased twins between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. When she arrived, she realized the car that the victims shared was not parked in the carport as was usually the case.   As she reached the front door, she realized that the door was ajar.   When she walked in, she noticed her mother sitting in a chair immediately next to the front door with her back facing the door.   Once she approached her mother, she realized that her mother’s necklace was wrapped tightly around her neck and that blood was dripping from her neck;  she was not breathing.   Susan turned to walk toward the phone to call for help and then noticed her aunt lying face down in the kitchen in a pool of blood.   She called the police, who arrived shortly after 4 p.m.

In a back bedroom of the home, police found a metal box that had been forcibly opened.   According to Kerry Cutting, Mrs. Flegel’s adult daughter, her mother had been in possession of this metal box for many years.   Inside the box, Mrs. Flegel had kept insurance papers, a passport, turn-of-the-century coins and two gold pocket watches, one with an elaborate scroll pattern on the outside.   The box was empty with the exception of a small case containing a ring band.   Other missing items included a heart-shaped locket;  at least one gold chain;  and a small black radio.   No large items were missing from the home.

Charles Hicks, Jr., also known as C.J., lived approximately four miles from the victims with his wife Sally and several nieces and nephews.1  C.J. met Francis approximately one year prior to these July 1997 events when Francis had paid him to change a tire on his car.   Although C.J. worked as a mechanic and in construction at times, he was also involved with drugs.   C.J. testified that he had sold Francis heroin on as many as ten different occasions.   According to Sally’s testimony, C.J. had been in the house with her the entire morning and early afternoon of July 24, 1997.

At approximately 3:40 p.m. on that date, C.J. saw Francis exit a vehicle he described as a 1980’s brown or beige Pontiac Grand Prix. Francis parked the car in the alley behind the church and was carrying a green duffle bag over his shoulder.   C.J. also saw Francis holding a pair of what appeared to him to be gardening gloves.   Francis walked over to C.J.’s house, entered the house, sat on the couch with Sally, and watched television.   While he was watching television, a news bulletin was broadcast concerning the discovery of the bodies of the twin sisters.   According to Sally’s testimony, Francis just stared at the television set and did not have any reaction.   Although the record is not clear as to whether Francis bought heroin immediately upon arriving at C.J.’s house, it is clear that Francis bought $10 worth of heroin from C.J. that afternoon.

After the news bulletin appeared, Francis asked C.J. to lend him a wheelbarrow and gasoline.   Francis was seen placing “some stuff” in the wheelbarrow and attempting to burn it.   One of the items C.J. observed in the fire was a ladies’ white pocketbook, containing $22 or $23.   Something that appeared to be a passport was also in the wheelbarrow along with articles of clothing, as well as the green duffle bag C.J. had seen Francis carrying when he exited the Pontiac. After attempting to burn the items, Francis was seen dumping the remaining contents of the wheelbarrow in a trash pile across the street from C.J.’s house.

During that same afternoon, C.J. saw Francis holding car keys with a leather strap attached to the key chain.   Mrs. Flegel’s daughter testified that her mother’s key chain was a leather strap with a block letter “B” on it.   The keys to the victims’ car were found within the pile of burned debris.   The vehicle in which Francis had arrived was found only a couple of blocks away.

Shortly before 7 p.m., Francis walked up to the cab stand on Tamarind Avenue to summon a ride.2  A taxi driver testified that he transported Francis back to his neighborhood and Francis exited the taxi at the corner near his house because police cars were blocking the area.

Detective Wills, who was directing the early stages of the investigation, saw Francis arrive at approximately 7:25 p.m. Francis walked straight ahead and then turned and walked up his driveway and directly into the front door of his home.   Both Detective Wills and Susan Wood’s husband testified that the defendant never turned to look over to the victims’ home where crime-scene tape still surrounded the area.   At this time, Francis was wearing a light blue Orlando Magic tank top, blue faded denim shorts, and white Reebok sneakers.

Detective Wills walked over to Francis’ house and was invited in by the defendant’s mother.   Detective Wills extended his hand to shake hands with Francis but Francis looked startled and swayed back. Detective Wills explained that he was investigating the murder of Francis’ next door neighbors.   The defendant stated that he already knew about it because he had seen the news bulletin on television.   Detective Wills then advised, “I understand you were home earlier,” and Francis inquired how the detective knew that information.   When Wills answered that Mrs. Goods had mentioned it, Francis turned to his mother and said, “Mama, why did you tell him that?”   Detective Wills then asked Francis where he went after leaving his house, to which Francis responded that he had gone to his friend Ghandi’s house.   Detective Wills inquired further as to where Ghandi lived and Francis responded that Ghandi lived in the neighborhood.   Francis provided no details as to who Ghandi was or exactly where he lived.   Francis then stated that he did not want to be the next victim and that he did not want to become involved;  he proceeded to walk away leaving Detective Wills standing in the middle of the living room.

The detective left Francis’ home and approximately one-half hour later he observed Francis walking out of his house carrying three garbage bags.   Detective Wills inquired as to where Francis was going, to which Francis responded that he was going to leave for safety reasons.   A few seconds later he added that his mother had thrown him out of the house.3  While Francis was standing outside his home, Detective Wills asked Francis if the clothes he was then wearing were the same clothes he had been wearing when he left the house in the morning, to which Francis responded affirmatively.   Francis’ mother, who was standing nearby, interjected and said, “Don’t you lie.   You weren’t wearing those clothes earlier.   You told me you got those from a friend.”   Francis then related that he had obtained the clothes from his friend Ghandi.   When Detective Wills asked Francis where the clothes he had been wearing earlier were located, Francis began looking through the plastic garbage bags, pulled out a pair of checkered shorts and said that he had been wearing them earlier.   His mother again broke into the conversation and said, “Don’t lie.   I saw those shorts on the bathroom floor.”   Francis then responded that he had not been wearing the checkered shorts earlier and that he guessed that the clothes he was wearing earlier in the day were at Ghandi’s house.   Detective Wills also questioned whether the Reebok shoes that Francis was wearing at the time were the same shoes he had been wearing earlier.   Before he could answer, Francis’ mother said, “You told me you got those from your friend, too.”   Francis replied that he had obtained the shoes from a friend and that his sneakers were with his clothes at Ghandi’s house.   Detective Wills pressed Francis for more details as to where Ghandi lived, but Francis again only responded that Ghandi lived in the neighborhood and that he did not know the house or the address.   At that time, a taxi arrived and Francis entered it and left.   Francis was transported to a location near C.J.’s house, and that night he began sleeping in the abandoned shack next to C.J.’s house.   Ghandi was never located.

While Francis was basically living in the abandoned shack, he visited with C.J. and showed him some old coins and two pocket watches, one with an engraved pattern.   Francis requested that C.J. pawn the items for him, but C.J. declined, claiming that the items were not worth much.   Francis also attempted to trade these items to C.J. for an assault rifle, but C.J. did not think the items were worth the trade.4  Instead, C.J. introduced Francis to a gun dealer named Bruce Brown, who testified that Francis wanted to purchase an assault weapon.   Francis told Brown that he had the money, but that he could not get to it right away.

C.J. admitted retaining the coins, watches, and a necklace and showing them to Sally.   Both C.J. and his wife testified that during the course of several days, the items were exchanged back and forth between C.J. and Sally and Francis, at Francis’ demand.   C.J. was the last to have possession of the coins and watches.   In addition to the coins and jewelry, Francis also showed C.J. a small black radio.   Francis also wanted to sell the radio, but it was not worth much.   Eventually, Francis discarded the radio.

George Dean, who had known Francis for several years, testified that Francis approached him while he was having dinner at a local restaurant and asked if he wanted to buy a necklace.   Dean responded that he was not interested because it looked like a necklace that an “old person would wear.”   The necklace had a long chain and an attached locket.

C.J. testified that when he learned that Francis may have been involved in events more serious than a purse snatching, he contacted the police.   C.J. informed officers that he had information concerning the person who was possibly responsible for the murders of the twin sisters.   When asked how he had obtained the information, C.J. replied that he had seen Francis exit the victims’ car on the day of the murders and that he had in his possession some of the items stolen from the victims’ home.   C.J. left the police headquarters for about 10 to 15 minutes and returned with the coins and the pocket watches.   C.J. led officers back to his house and to the abandoned shack.

The first item recovered by the investigators was a .22 caliber Winchester rifle which had been partially buried in the sand between the church and day care center and the abandoned shack.5  The rifle belonged to C.J., who kept it, along with bullets, in the abandoned shack, which remained unlocked.

Also in the same area, the investigators found a pair of latex gloves on top of the church’s air conditioning unit.   In a small, wooden shed located in the same area,6 investigators recovered a second pair of rubber gloves and a baseball cap inside of which were fourteen loose live rounds, a box of ammunition containing fifty-five rounds of .22 caliber ammunition, and a couple of pennies. At trial, R.G. testified that his grandmother, a nurse, kept a box of rubber gloves in the house where Francis resided.   A small black radio was also recovered in a nearby area.

The investigators then searched the 25 foot long mass of debris across the street from C.J.’s house.   At the end of that pile of debris was a deposit of ashes and burnt items.   In that deposit, the investigators recovered:  two sets of keys, which were from the victims’ vehicle;  the metal frame of a pocket purse with a snap latch; 7  buttons;  some burnt cloth;  an eyeglass arm;  a lighter;  a padlock;  a polaroid photo of Sally, the corner of which appeared to have been burned, but not to any great extent;  and papers showing some degree of fire damage.

The investigation then moved on to the abandoned shack where officers found more .22 caliber ammunition and a bible.   The bible had Francis’ fingerprint on it.   Francis was arrested later that afternoon and shortly thereafter Mrs. Flegel’s daughter arrived at the police department and identified the items recovered during the investigation as those belonging to her mother and aunt.

Detective Key became involved with the case on the day of the arrest and after reading Francis his Miranda rights, he and Detective Wills began to interrogate Francis.   According to the detectives’ testimony, Francis mentioned touching coins, watches, a rifle and a radio without those items first being mentioned to him.   After approximately fifteen minutes into the interrogation, Francis said he wanted to speak to a lawyer.   The interrogation ceased with Francis remaining in the interrogation room for approximately three and one half hours.   At around 8:30 p.m., Francis knocked on the door of the interrogation room.   Detective Key came to the door and inquired as to what Francis wanted, to which Francis replied that he wanted to talk to them.   Approximately one half hour after Francis knocked on the door, the detectives returned to the interrogation room with him.   At this time, a hidden recording device inside the interrogation room was activated.

When asked what he had been doing the morning of the murders, Francis responded that he had awakened at around 11 a.m. and that he sat around the house until approximately 2 p.m. when he left.   He was then interrogated concerning the clothes he was wearing on the day of the murders and his mother’s statement:  “Don’t you lie.   You weren’t wearing those clothes earlier.”   Francis responded that when his mother saw him that morning (when she came home for lunch) he had just awakened and was wearing different clothes from those he was wearing when he actually left the house (i.e., his mother never saw the clothes he was wearing when he left the house).   He further claimed that he did not walk in the direction of the victim’s home, as his nephew testified.   He again reiterated that he went to see his friend Ghandi, and then added that Ghandi’s house was on Robbins Street.   He told the officers that Ghandi was not home so he went to play basketball at a park around the Westgate area.   He stated that after he finished playing basketball, he was transported back to his home in a taxi because he did not feel like walking.   At that time, the detectives advised him that they knew he had not entered a taxi by Westgate, but that they knew he summoned a cab at the taxi stand on Tamarind Avenue.   Francis then explained that he had been in the area by Tamarind Avenue and admitted that the taxi ride had commenced at the Tamarind cab stand.8

The investigation conducted at the home where the bodies were found resulted in the recovery of a spent .22 caliber casing.   According to a firearms expert, this spent casing had been fired from the .22 Winchester rifle which had been found in the abandoned shack located next to C.J.’s house.   The expert added that there was no way of ascertaining when the casing had been actually fired or ejected.   Further investigation of the crime scene revealed that there was no evidence of a bullet strike anywhere in the house, and the medical examiner further testified that neither victim had a bullet wound.

The investigators also recovered several shoe prints from inside the victims’ home.   A shoe print expert testified that one of the prints was consistent with the shoes Mrs. Flegel was wearing at the time her body was discovered and the other prints were consistent with a Nike model sneaker, ranging in size from eight to ten.   Although Francis’ shoe size was a size eleven, he was wearing size nine and one-half Reebok sneakers at the time of his arrest.

The investigators also recovered three knives which were lying out of place.   The first was located on a table by the front door and next to Mrs. Brunt.   A second knife was found on a wicker stool which was usually in the kitchen, but was in the living room when Mrs. Brunt’s daughter arrived.   A third knife was found on the kitchen counter.   A portion of the handle of the knife found on the kitchen counter had broken off and was found in the pool of blood on the floor where Mrs. Flegel was found.   The knife recovered from the table by the front door had blood residue, as did the knife found on the wicker stool.   The knife on the kitchen counter top (with the broken handle) had no traces of blood.9  One knife (the testimony does not indicate which one) had Mrs. Brunt’s blood on it;  the other had traces of Mrs. Flegel’s blood.

A DNA technician also tested swabs containing blood from the floor, from under the bar stool found in the living room, from a wall, and from the garbage can in the kitchen.   All of the blood samples collected were consistent with that of the victims.   None of the samples collected matched either Francis or C.J.

The medical examiner’s report indicated that Claire Brunt received sixteen stab wounds, including one which severed her jugular vein and two in her back, which were three to four inches deep and punctured her lung.   Mrs. Brunt had one defensive wound just above her wrist.   Dr. Sibert testified that she was conscious for a period from a few seconds to a few minutes.   Bernice Flegel was stabbed twenty-three times.   The deepest of her wounds reached four to five inches into her liver;  her jugular vein was also severed.   Mrs. Flegel had no defensive wounds.

After an eight-day trial, the jury returned a verdict of guilty on two counts of first-degree murder;  two counts of robbery with a deadly weapon;  one count of burglary with assault or battery;  two counts of aggravated battery on a person sixty-five or older; 10  and one count of grand theft.   Following the penalty phase, the jury recommended,11 and the trial court imposed, the death penalty for both counts of first-degree murder.12  The trial court also sentenced Francis to a five-year term of imprisonment for the grand theft conviction and, based on an upward departure from the sentencing guidelines, to three life sentences for the one burglary count and the two robbery with deadly weapon counts, all sentences to run concurrently.

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