Man gets 40 Years for Magnolia Murder

By: Montgomery County District Attorney's Office
| Published 01/28/2022

Manuel Franco

MAGNOLIA, TX -- On Thursday, Jan 27, 2022a Montgomery County jury found Manuel Franco, 22 guilty of Murder and sentenced him to 40 years in prison. Franco will be required to serve 20 years before he becomes eligible for parole. The Honorable Judge Lisa Michalk of the 221st District Court presided over the four-day trial.

On the evening of August 23, 2020, deputies from the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office responded to the scene of an altercation on Turtle Creek Way in Magnolia, Texas. Upon arrival, deputies learned that Manuel Franco had struck Martin Cano with a vehicle, causing serious bodily injury. Witnesses stated that after Cano won a fistfight against Fanco’s borher, Franco ran over Cano. Franco then fled to the woods as the first deputies arrived at the scene. Cano’s family drove him to Tomball Regional Medical Center, where he succumbed to his injuries shortly after arrival.

Detectives Michael Burnett and Charlie Sullivent, members of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office Homicide and Violent Crimes Unit, arrived at the scene. The detectives interviewed numerous eyewitnesses, located the white Chevrolet Avalanche involved in the murder, and worked with crime scene units to collect evidence and document the scene.

After obtaining an arrest warrant, officers captured the Defendant the next day. During his first statement to detectives, he claimed that he was trying to leave the scene to get help when he ran over the victim on accident. Detectives pointed out evidence at the scene demonstrating that when Franco ran over Cano, he was driving away from the road he would have used to get help. Franco then changed his story and claimed that he hit Cano on purpose to protect his brother.

Montgomery County Assistant District Attorneys Chris Seufert and Adam McLane presented the case to the jury. Prosecutors proved at the time of the murder, Franco was working for the victim. The fight between Cano and Franco broke out because Franco decided to quit. Franco's brother intervened and began a fistfight with Cano. While the two were trading punches, Franco went to the truck, turned it on, and put it into gear. After Cano and Franco's brother separated. Franco ran his former boss over from behind. After impacting Cano's body, Franco continued forward, driving over a large sago palm trunk, which caused the truck to become stuck.

At trial, Franco claimed he acted in defense of his brother and never intended to kill Cano. Several witnesses testified that Cano was several feet away from Franco's brother when the Defendant ran him over. The jury rejected Franco's defense of third person claim as well as the defense's request for the lesser included offense of manslaughter. The jury retumed a guilty verdict for the offense of murder after deliberating approximately one hour.

During the sentencing phase of the trial, the victim's wife told jurors that her husband was a good man and a loving father, and a hard worker. Franco also testified, again denying that he ever intended to kill anyone. After less than two hours of deliberation during the punishment phase, the jury returned a sentence of 40 years. Because there was an affirmative finding of a deadly weapon, Franco will be required to serve half of his sentence before becoming eligible for parole.

Assistant District Attorney Chris Seifert: “This was a simple fistfight until the Defendant decided to use a 5,600-pound truck as a deadly weapon to kill Martin Cano. People have the right to defend themselves and others, but no one has the right to take a life because they lost a fight.”

District Attorney Brett Ligon: “This Defendant forever stole a husband from his wife, a father from his children, and a neighbor to this community. This was a senseless killing, and the jury affirmed that in Montgomery County, there is a high price for killing a man for no good reason.”

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