OGDEN — Everything was fine, domestic violence victim Marnie Franich Stark told her family; her boyfriend was getting help.
On Thursday, 43-year-old Jeffrey Dean White was arrested and booked into Weber County Jail in connection with the death of Stark — his live-in girlfriend — which police believe was a homicide. White faces a charge of first-degree felony murder and two third-degree felony counts for commission of domestic violence in the presence of a child, according to an Ogden Police news release.
White’s two children, ages 7 and 9, were present during an argument preceding the homicide, according to a probable cause affidavit obtained Thursday night by the Standard-Examiner. Police have declined to say whether the children witnessed the actual killing.
Police were dispatched to the home White and Stark shared at 1390 Douglas St. around 10:15 p.m. Saturday to a report of a female who had lost consciousness and was not breathing. Stark, 38, was pronounced dead less than an hour later at McKay-Dee Hospital.
Dr. Edward A. Leis, the state’s deputy chief medical examiner, determined Stark died from a lacerated liver caused by blunt force trauma, the probable cause affidavit says. The injuries were consistent with punches or kicks.
White told an Ogden Police detective he and Stark had been involved in a loud argument and had thrown items at each other Saturday night, according to the probable cause statement.
In addition, White said he and Stark had “rough sex” shortly before he called 911 and also admitted to choking her during sex, the statement reads. White told police he was the only adult with Stark that night.
However, police interviewed several witnesses who had been at the home shared by White and Stark on Saturday night, and they noted that Stark was not injured or complaining of pain when they left around 8:30 p.m., according to the probable cause statement.
Still, a neighbor reported to police of hearing a man and woman screaming at each other from the direction of the home around the time the people were leaving. Multiple witnesses also gave statements to police detailing a history of domestic violence injuries to Stark inflicted by White, the probable cause statement reads.
A South Ogden man who said he has known Stark for 16 years said her death comes after more than a year of violence between the two.
“Marnie has had abuse with him in the past,” the man said.
He said he often wondered why she didn’t leave White.
“Women in abuse won’t leave the situation out of fear,” he recalled being told. “It’s been a rough, rocky year and a half for the two of them. They had a very rocky relationship.”
He said the last he knew of their situation was that the two were separated.
The funeral is set for noon today at the Morgan 6th Ward Chapel, 2700 S. Morgan Valley Drive, in Porterville.
Stark’s mother and sister, Jessie Franich and Rana Franich Aguirre, spoke Thursday at Walker Mortuary, 45 W. 200 North, in Morgan, during the viewing.
“We want people to know how totally, totally unnecessary it was,” Jessie Franich said. “If a man says he’s going to stop hitting, he’s not. Any girls in this kind of relationship better get out before it comes to this.”
Morgan County Sheriff’s deputies were at the viewing Thursday in case White’s friends caused any trouble, said Deputy Tyler Grose. Ogden City Police Department will also attend the funeral at Porterville today.
About two weeks ago, Stark told her family White said he was getting help and everything was going to be fine, Aguirre said.
“We couldn’t make her leave,” she said. “I tried and tried.”
Stark’s brother, Torrey Franich, said he lived with White and Stark for two and a half months. He said he didn’t know about the violence then and did not see any. He said he found out when White called him from the McKay-Dee emergency room and was laughing about roughing up Stark so much that she was in the hospital.
“If I had to do it over, I would grab her by the hair of her head and haul her out,” her mother said.
Aguirre said she did everything she could do. She sheltered her sister at her home after the beatings, promised Stark she had a place to go and warned her White was going to kill her. Aguirre said she had her own trouble with White, who had grabbed her by the throat and pushed her across the basement.
“He broke her ribs, knocked her out, threw her in the closet and left her there and tried to gouge her eyes out,” Aguirre said. “That’s just what she told me about. I saw her with bruises on her arms.”
Stark’s ex-husband, Bob Stark, of Ogden, was at the Morgan viewing. He had spoken to Marnie about the violence, he said, but she said she “was not a cop caller.”