HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The man convicted this month of the murders of two University of Texas students in 1994 insists he is innocent.
"I know I'm innocent and I still believe that to the day, even though I've been convicted," said Chiron Francis.
Francis was convicted of the murders of Douglas Schwartz and Eric Heidbreder. He was sentenced to 75 years in prison for each count of murder.
"I had no part of it. I never killed anyone," Francis said.
Schwartz and Heidbreder were shot in the head execution-style while in Houston on a break from school at U-T in what Francis describes as a drug deal gone bad.
Francis was on the run for 22 years -- until he was located by authorities in Venezuela in 2015. He claims he traveled freely between the Dominican Republic, Africa, London and Venezuela, saying he was surprised it took officials as long as it did to catch up to him.
"I was shocked. I been walking freely and I've never been questioned," he claimed.
ABC13 asked Francis why he ran if he was truly innocent as he claims.
He insists it was the Mexican Mafia who killed Heidbreder and Schwartz and that he fled because those who killed the pair knew that he knew.
"Those organizations are real and the bullets that come out of their guns are real. That is why I left. I feared that they would take my life," he said.
At trial, two people who knew Francis testified he confessed to the murders on separate occasions.
He told us he only confessed to setting up the meeting at which the young men were murdered.
He insists the justice system has failed: claiming police work was negligent and the jury system biased. He wrote a brief statement he asked to read, hoping it might reach the ears of all families whose loved ones have been murdered.
"I give my sincerest condolences because no one wants to lose a loved one, but please find and accuse the right people. Don't just settle for less, or the innocent," he said.
David Schwartz, Douglas' father, summed up his response to Francis' allegations, saying: "A jury of 12 unbiased citizens of Fort Bend county listened to the testimony throughout the trial for 8 days and heard many expert witnesses. It took them less than 4 hours to decide that he was guilty of killing both kids."
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