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Mother of slain daughter urges others to flee abusive relationships

Published: Monday, Oct. 29 2012 7:01 p.m. MDT

OGDEN — Jessie Franich doesn't miss a beat when asked about her daughter, Marnie Stark.

"She was absolutely the most outgoing, beautiful little thing you could ever imagine," she said of her second-born. "She loved everything and everybody."

Including a man accused of abusing her, a man her family told her again and again to leave.

"Sometimes you can tell them and tell them and it never works," Franich said Monday. "I knew that he had abused her somewhat before. You try not to think that it will go to the length that it did. We all knew that it was headed to a bad place."

Stark's live-in boyfriend of two years, Jeffrey Dean White, 43, was charged in 2nd District Court Friday with murder, a first-degree felony, and two counts of domestic violence in the presence of a child, a third-degree felony, in connection with Stark's death. The 38-year-old woman was unconscious and not breathing when police arrived at 1390 Douglas Street around 10 p.m. on Oct. 20.  

"They called me from the hospital, they didn't think she was going to make it," Franich said from her Morgan home. "She was gone five minutes before I got there."

An autopsy showed Stark was killed by a lacerated liver caused by blunt force trauma. The medical examiner who performed the autopsy said the injuries were "consistent with punches or kicks," the charges state.

White's two children, ages 6 and 7, were home when the fatal abuse occurred, Franich said. Stark left behind a 9-year-old son.

Her mother said Stark would care for White's children. She remembered her daughter as one who was great with horses and "as beautiful on the inside as she was on the outside."

"She liked everybody and everybody liked her," Franich said. She was drop-dead gorgeous. Her smile lit up the room when she came in. She was one of those — she was special."

Franich said she thought White was "OK" in the beginning, "until I started to find out some things and then started to think he wasn't so OK."

"None of us were ever really thrilled about the whole thing," she said.

She is so full of favorite memories of her daughter she finds it hard to pick just one. Coping with the loss has not been easy.

"You just try to lean on some faith," Franich said. "The support of this community has been unbelievable. They have just stood behind us like no other. You think sometimes nobody knows you're alive, and then something like this happens and they rally behind us like you wouldn't believe."

But the thing Franich wants to impress more than anything else is that anyone, anywhere, who knows someone in an abusive relationship needs to get them out sooner rather than later.

"You never know when you're going to get a call like we got," she said. "This is the kind of thing we think happens to everybody else. You turn on the TV and see it on 'Law and Order.' We're living it. It's hard to wrap your head around it. … I wouldn't wish this on anybody."

The family plans to attend White's first court hearing, which is scheduled for Thursday. Meantime, Franich lives a life measured in minutes — some good and some bad — trying to memorialize her daughter and spare others from her fate.

"She was the most beautiful, caring little person that anyone could ever be around and she did not deserve what happened to her," she said.

E-mail: emorgan@desnews.com Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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