Trial begins Monday in Farmington murder case

Steve Garrison
Lionel Lee Francis

FARMINGTON – The murder trial for Lionel Francis, accused of beating his girlfriend to death in November 2013, is set to begin Monday.

Francis, 33, was arrested Nov. 11, 2013, on allegations he murdered Shai Burbank during a drunken fight at the couple's apartment at 2901 Parque De Oeste in Farmington, according to The Daily Times archive.

Farmington police detectives say Francis called 911 at 8:42 a.m. to report that Burbank was not breathing. Police found Burbank dead on the floor, and Francis upstairs with Burbank's 7-year-old daughter and the couple's 5-month-old son.

Francis told detectives that Burbank, 32, started a fight with him the night before, and he grabbed her by the hair, kicked her in the stomach and punched her in the head several times.

He said she passed out after the beating, and he found her dead the next morning.

Francis was charged Nov. 12, 2013, in Farmington Magistrate Court with second-degree murder, attempted evidence tampering, first-offense child abuse and felony battery on a household member.

Francis is being represented at trial by District Public Defender Matthew Cockman, according to court records. Cockman could not be reached for comment Friday.

Francis was arrested several times on domestic abuse charges before Burbank's death.

In October 2009, he pleaded no contest to misdemeanor battery on allegations he punched and kicked his wife while intoxicated at their home on South Carlton Avenue in Farmington.

He was twice charged with battering Burbank in 2012 and pleaded guilty to one count of misdemeanor battery on March 15, 2013, in connection to the incidents, according to court records.

The trial is set to conclude on Thursday.

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644.