Just 16 months apart in age, sisters Marnie Franich Stark and Rana Franich Aguirre were inseparable. When they were young, their mother Jessie Franich would dress them like twins. The “Fiesty Franich sisters” shared many common friends while attending Morgan High School. Even their parents couldn’t tell their voices apart on the phone.
As the oldest sister, Marnie would often offer Rana relationship advice. But the tables had turned in the last three years when Marnie found herself in an abusive relationship with her live-in boyfriend Jeffrey Dene White. And Rana, who had dated White herself two decades ago, often warned Marnie about his substance abuse and potential for violence.
Marnie would often flee to Rana’s home to recover from the beatings. Despite Rana’s attempts to get Marnie to leave the relationship, Marnie would begin to feel “incomplete” without her boyfriend and usually return within one day of the beatings.
A week ago, Rana lent her sister a pair of jeans, styled her hair, and did her makeup. It was something the sisters commonly did. But this time, it was the last as Rana prepared her sister’s bruised, battered and broken body for burial in the Porterville Cemetery.
Although the bruising around Marnie’s neck, “grab marks” around her arm, and band-aids on old wounds were clearly visible, those visiting during the funeral last week chose to remember Marnie for who she was and not the horrible crime that took her life on Oct. 20.
Marnie is described by her friends and family as a strong-willed woman with a beautiful smile, contagious laugh and great hugs.
Cousin Hailey Kilburn Jones said Marnie’s heart-felt giggles “came from her toes up.”
“The sound of her laughter could brighten any one’s day,” said friend Bonnie Carter Mecham. “I will miss hearing that sound.”
“She was my protector growing up,” Jones said. “She was always there when I needed her most; it’s like she could sense that. She loved fiercely those closest to her.”
Even if Marnie was going through a hard time herself—and there were many—she would drop everything to help out a friend, said Shadd Preece.
“We had lots of heart-to-hearts over the years,” said cousin Misty Kilburn Wiese. “I drew strength from her love and her words.”
Marnie’s death has been especially difficult to the children in her life such as her son, Shea, and nieces and nephews.
“This has been one of the hardest weeks I’ve experienced,” said Misty’s son Kaden Wiese, who participated in a musical number meant especially for Shea during the funeral.
Rana said Marnie’s death has started a ripple effect that will go on for years, especially in the lives of her son and the other children affected.
Those who knew her unanimously say she was a beautiful woman full of compassion.
“People just stared at her beauty,” Rana said. “Everyone loved hanging out with her. If she knew you, she gave her everything.”
“She had a magnetic personality that always drew people near to her,” said friend Misty Jo Wright.
“She was drop-dead gorgeous with a smile that lit up the room anywhere she was,” her mother Jessie said. “I will miss everything about her. She was my baby.”
“Her hair was always perfect. She was a beautiful girl with a big heart and lots of love to give,” said friend Darcie Packard Harris. “She took care of everyone.”
Even when it meant babysitting three babies just three months apart in age so her siblings could return to work, Rana said.
She loved children.
“Her son was the absolute light of her life,” Jessie said. “She lived and breathed for that boy.”
In recent years, she also cared for White’s 6- and 7-year-old children, who were present during the altercation that lead to her death. According to a medical examiner report, Marnie died from a lacerated liver caused by blunt force trauma consistent with punches or kicks.
However ugly her death was, Marnie’s family is overwhelmed with the outpouring of love and support offered from the Morgan community. Even a week later, fresh flowers are still arriving at their doorsteps. Calls, emails and facebook posts offering condolences and memories of Marnie have been continual.
“I have no words to describe what this community has done for us with their love and support,” Jessie said. “It has been phenomenal. There is no place on the planet like this.”
For more complete memories shared by family and friends, please see The Morgan County News online at morgannewspaper.com.