End of Watch: The Murder of Deputy Doug Heist, Escambia County (FL), Sheriff’s Department, April 29, 1980

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Deputy Doug Heist

On April 23, 1938, Frank and Pearl Heist gave birth to their second son, Floyd Douglas. Doug would have two more brothers and a step-brother.

Royal Untreiner became sheriff of Escambia County, Florida in 1970. The next year he called Doug Heist. “Wanna be a deputy sheriff?” asked the sheriff. That started a great career.

When Ernest Fitzpatrick woke on the morning of Tuesday, April 29, 1980, he was ready. He had planned it out to the last detail. And today he would execute it. He had been planning the bank robbery for several weeks. Warrington – a couple miles west of the city limits, was perfect. There were lots of banks in that area, the bus ran by there, and it was not close to either residence, so no one would suspect him. It was a great plan!

So, at about 7:30 in the morning, Fitzpatrick, dressed in a black wig, fake beard and mustache, and carrying a paper bag with his all-important tool in it, boarded the city bus, bound for Warrington.

Which bank? He looked around. There were several in the area to choose from. His eyes caught the First State Bank – that was it. Then he headed for Fanning Realty. Fitzpatrick entered through the front door, ready to put his plan into action. Then the strategy fell apart. He pulled his gun and announced that he intended to take hostage. In the next room, David Parks called the police.

Doug and Sgt. Ed Smith responded and went inside. They saw that the suspect held a gun on Helen Blake and William Shaw. Sgt. Smith, in a fatherly tone, said, “Let’s talk about it.” Seeing that things had not gone well over the past few minutes, Smith said, “This is not that bad.”

Fitzpatrick turned toward Doug and shot his .38, striking Doug in the head. Smith shot Fitzpatrick and hit him with a full-body tackle and cuffed him.

Doug tried to stand up but couldn’t. The bullet had entered his skull, traveled through his brain and exited the back of his head. He collapsed. He was rushed to the hospital. He never left alive.  

Martha Jean, Doug’s wife, was notified and taken to the hospital. Although Doug’s condition was critical, everyone – his wife, children and co-workers – thought he would pull through. He was as tough as nails. Kids don’t think anything can kill their father, and Doug’s kids were no different.

May 3, 1980: Deep down inside, they knew it was coming. Martha Jean and the kids knew. Members of the Sheriff’s office knew. Practically everyone that was familiar with the incident knew. And maybe they were expecting it…sort of. But that didn’t make it easier. They didn’t want it to happen, and they were devastated when it did. Late in the morning, with his family around him, Deputy Doug Heist breathed his last.

On Monday, October 27, the trial began. Three days later it was over. The jury found Fitzpatrick guilty of premeditated first-degree murder. The next day, it took the jury 36 minutes to decide to recommend the death penalty for the killer. The sentencing hearing was set for December 5, and the jury was dismissed.

A month later, Friday, December 5, Judge Blanchard asked Fitzpatrick if he had anything to say about the murder of Deputy Heist. He responded…

“I don’t think I should be sent to jail,” he said. “The only thing I planned to do that day was rob a bank, not kill anyone.” He said that he killed Heist in self-defense.

            When he finished, Judge Blanchard sat for a moment, then sentenced him to die in the electric chair. Fitzpatrick’s sentence was later overturned, and he was resentenced to life in prison. As of March 12, 2023, he is still incarcerated, but alive, which is not the case with Deputy Doug Heist.


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