Ogden murder suspect found dead in jail cell

Nov 20 2012 - 12:41am

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Jeffrey Dean White (Weber County Jail photo)
Marnie Franich Stark, murder victim
Jeffrey Dean White (Weber County Jail photo)
Marnie Franich Stark, murder victim

OGDEN -- Jeffrey Dean White, 43, charged with murdering his girlfriend, was found dead late Wednesday night in his cell at the Weber County Jail.

A news release from the sheriff's office said it appeared that hanging was the cause of death.

White was charged with murder in the Oct. 20 death of Marnie Stark. White told police he and Stark had just engaged in "rough sex" before he called 911, according to charging documents, where he admitted choking her during sex.

The state medical examiner's autopsy determined the cause of Stark's death to be a lacerated liver caused by blunt force trauma consistent with punches or kicks.

The night Stark died, neighbors reported hearing a loud argument between the two with items being thrown. The argument was witnessed by White's two children, ages 7 and 9, leading to two additional charges against him of domestic violence in the presence of a child.

White's death did not bring the victim's mother and sister any satisfaction, but they were relieved. Nothing could bring Marnie back, but her remaining family will not be forced to go through court for the next two or three years, said her sister, Rana Franich Aguirre.

"I'm not going to do cartwheels that anyone is dead, but maybe we can start to heal now," said Stark's mother, Jessie Franich, of Morgan.

White's suicide was an admission of guilt, Jessie Franich said.

"This is hard: This is a really emotional time for all of us," she said.

"You don't want to say you're glad anyone is dead. He left two kids without a mother or a father. I have a grandson without a mother. It was all so unnecessary. None of this had to happen."

Robert Stark, of Ogden, said he remained friends with Marnie Stark after their divorce. He heard about White's death Thursday morning.

"The devil is getting his turn now; Jeff will get his in hell," he said.

White's attorney, Jim Retallick, said that White's parents are devastated by his death. He said White insisted, as recently as Wednesday, that he was innocent.

Retallick said a note left by White apparently did not admit guilt, either.

"It's interesting because Jeff has always maintained his innocence with me, and I guess a note was left, and I don't think there was any sort of admission of guilt," Retallick said.

"He maintained his innocence with his family. His mother just talked to him yesterday."

White was arrested Oct. 25. He was housed in a maximum-security cell in the jail.

Retallick questioned why White wasn't on suicide watch. He said detectives in the case, and 2nd District Judge Michael Lyon, who handled his preliminary hearing, both said he was a suicide risk.

Retallick said he had just spent time with White's parents, who have temporary custody of their son's children.

"To use the word dismayed is an understatement," he said. "Why Jeff wasn't on a suicide watch, especially given the preliminary hearing ... One of the reasons Judge Lyon gave for not reducing the bail was that Jeff was a suicide risk."

He said the original bail request was for $1 million cash bail, and "one of four reasons for that was they believed he was a suicide risk. Why that was never communicated to the jail I have no idea, because I found that the detectives put it in their affidavit, and from what I understand, the jail did not have him under a suicide watch."

Sheriff's spokesman Lt. Mark Lowther confirmed that White was not under a suicide watch.

"I've checked with the jail administration, and nothing at the time Mr. White was booked indicated he was a suicide risk," Lowther said.

In jail, he said, White exhibited "no behaviors" that would lead jailers to think he was suicidal, "and I can find nothing where Mr. Retallick communicated with the sheriff's office that his client was suicidal."

Lowther said he double-checked and could find "no documentation" that the jail was advised White might be suicidal.

He said there would be a more thorough look at why, if the judge and detectives had concerns, those were not made clear to the jailers.

Lowther said the Weber County attorney is conducting the in-custody death investigation.

Retallick said he will appear before Judge Lyon today at 2 p.m. to ask that the charges against White be dismissed.

Correspondent Kristen Hebestreet and reporter Tim Gurrister contributed to this article.

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