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Lionel Francis was sentenced to 19 ½ years in prison for his conviction in the murder of Shai Burbank in 2013

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AZTEC — Lionel Francis was sentenced today to the maximum sentence of 19 ½ years in prison for his conviction in the murder of his girlfriend in November 2013.

Francis, 33, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for second-degree murder in the slaying of 32-year-old Shai Burbank. He was further sentenced to three years in prison for child abuse and 18 months in prison for battery on a household member, a third offense.

Prosecutor Marcus Blais requested the maximum sentence for Francis, pointing to the defendant’s criminal history, which includes two prior convictions for domestic battery.

"Anything other than the maximum sentence would be interpreted by this family as if the victim did something wrong in this case," Blais said. "Or the defendant is somehow a nice guy, and he is just misunderstood."

Burbank's mother, Laura Atcitty, said her daughter's murder was a "horrible nightmare."

"I know my heart hurts so bad that it will probably never heal," she said. "All I have to do is be there for my grand kids and do the best I can."

Francis was arrested Nov. 11, 2013, after officers found Burbank dead at the couple’s residence at 2901 Parque De Oeste in Farmington.

Francis told detectives they were drinking the night prior when Burbank attacked him while he was holding their son, according to Daily Times archives. He said he responded by beating Burbank unconscious with his hands and feet, archives state.

He said he found Burbank dead the next morning and called 911.

A jury found Francis guilty Dec. 3 after a four-day trial.

Francis was expected to be sentenced in January, but his attorney, District Public Defender Matthew Cockman, requested the judge allow Francis to undergo a 60-day evaluation by the state corrections department.

Cockman argued at today’s sentencing hearing that alcohol was a factor in the murder.

"He is an alcoholic," Cockman said about Francis. "It’s an illness. That does not excuse his past behavior, and there is a price to be paid for that, but I just ask that you contemplate not just the wrongful acts, but the prospect for rehabilitation and restoration."

Francis apologized to Burbank’s family at the sentencing hearing.

"I am very sorry," Francis said. "I regret everything I did."

Francis will serve five years of parole following his release from prison.

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

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