Francis
Francis

FARMINGTON — Tiny cowboy boots and baby toys are still on the ground in a corner of the living room.

DVDs of children's movies are stacked next to the television.

A 7-year-old girl's chalk paintings mark the ground outside of the apartment building.

On Monday morning, police burst into the building and found Shai Burbank, 32, beaten to death on the white tile living room of her family's apartment on Parque De Oeste Drive in west Farmington.

Her boyfriend, Lionel Francis Sr., 33, was arrested on suspicion of second-degree murder, battery on a household member, child abuse and tampering with evidence in connection to Burbank's death, said Georgette Allen, a Farmington police spokeswoman. He was booked into San Juan County Adult Detention Center on Monday night on a $400,000 bond and has applied for a public defender, according to court documents.

Police said Francis called 911 at 8:42 a.m. on Monday and said Burbank wasn't breathing.

Responding officers forced their way into the locked home and found Burbank dead on the floor. Francis was upstairs with Burbank's 7-year-old daughter and the couples' five-month-old son.

Nate White, the couples' neighbor, said he heard screams coming from the house late Sunday night or early Monday morning. It was either one of the couples' usual fights or their baby was crying, he thought.

"Once in a great while you would hear their fights," he said. "It was just a random thing."

White said he never talked with Burbank. The only time he spoke to Francis was when the man came to his apartment reeking of alcohol, he said.

"He had already been turned down at the liquor store, and he asked me to go for him," White said.

"I said 'No.' That was the only time he ever talked to me."

Police arrested Francis Monday, and detectives interviewed him throughout the day.

Francis allegedly told investigators that Burbank started a fight with him on Sunday night. He said she slapped him when he was holding their baby, and he elbowed her in the face, causing her nose to bleed, according to the affidavit for his arrest.

A woman was beaten to death early Monday morning at an apartment in the 2900 block of West Parque De Oeste Drive in Farmington.
A woman was beaten to death early Monday morning at an apartment in the 2900 block of West Parque De Oeste Drive in Farmington. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times)

Francis told police Burbank passed out briefly and then got up and tried to wrestle him to the ground. He said he grabbed her by the hair, kicked her in the stomach and brought her to the ground. Then he said he straddled her and punched her in the head several more times until she passed out again, according to the affidavit.

Francis told police he went to sleep after that and woke up in the morning and found Burbank dead, according to the affidavit.

Investigators said she had "massive trauma" on her body. The first detective on scene noted in his report that Burbank's blood was pooled on a rug she was laying on, and her hair were matted throughout the tile living room, according to court documents.

Monday's arrest was one of several times Farmington police have arrested Francis for domestic violence.

His first arrest was in October 2009. He later pleaded no contest to attacking his wife of seven years. He punched and kicked her late at night when their children were asleep, according to the affidavit for his arrest. He was intoxicated during the incident, and he beat his wife and broke the front window to his home on South Carlton Avenue, according to court documents.

In fall 2012, Francis was charged with battery against Burbank twice.

Burbank told police that on Oct. 19, 2012, she was driving Francis home from the movies when he started to punch her in the face as she was on Broadway Avenue. She parked the car, and he ran off, according to court documents.

Burbank called police the next day. An arrest warrant for Francis on misdemeanor battery charges in connection to the incident was filed in magistrate court on Nov. 7, 2012, according to court documents.

On Oct. 21, 2012, Francis returned to the couple's apartment on Parque De Oeste and punched Burbank several times and broke her phone and the apartment window, according to court documents.

A day later, another arrest warrant was filed in connection to that incident in magistrate court.

Burbank's then-6-year-old daughter witnessed the Oct. 21, 2012, attack. She told a police officer that "Francis was beating and punching my mom," according to court documents.

In March 2013, Francis accepted a plea agreement in connection to the two charges. He pleaded "no contest" to one count of misdemeanor battery on a household member and was sentenced to supervised probation.

Steve Ellison is Burbank's and Francis' landlord. He remembered Francis' arrest last year because Francis broke a window in the couple's home.

Ellison told Francis to comply with the court's order and pay his rent and he wouldn't be evicted.

"I thought it was the right thing to do," he said.

Ellison described Burbank as quiet, shy and nice. He said that he once noticed she had bruises on her arms and face and asked her about it.

She told him she got hurt at the female boxing gym in Farmington, Ellison recalled.

Ryan Boetel covers crime for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and rboetel@daily-times.com. Follow him on Twitter @rboetel on Twitter.