Francine Lori Toni Meegan
December 8, 1989 - October 1990
Find A Grave Memorial
On October 9, 1990 in Prescott, Arizona, a rancher, Alan Kessler ,and his son J.B. came upon a grotesque site.  With arms outstretched as if reaching up to heaven, Alan thought he was looking at a doll, J.B. called out to his father that it was not a doll, it was a baby.

The baby had been burned and still visible on the baby were pieces of a red, white and blue outfit.  Alan Kessler touched the baby which caused her skin to give and some fluid leaked out.

Alan Kessler rode to his ranch house and called the police.  Six years would come and go before anyone knew who this precious baby girl had been and the circumstances which had lead to her being found in this unimaginable condition.

When the truth came out, the story was shocking.  Born December 8, 1989 to James and Lillian Meegan, her name was Francine Lori Toni Meegan.  From the very beginning, her parents knew they did not want her.

A couple that were friends with the Meegan's agreed to take the baby and to help them out financially in return. Valerie and Dennis Jenson had three boys already and wanted a girl. Valerie's doctors had told her it would be a health risk for her to have any more children. The Jenson's gave the couple $1,000. and bought them a car also agreeing to help them with a down payment on a new house.  Money was demanded so much that it was soon over $30,000. that the Jenson's had shelled out.

On September 10, 1990, the Meegan's were upset that their steady "income" of money from the Jenson's had stopped.  The Meegan's went to the home of the Jenson's and made threats concerning their children while demanding to have Francine back.  The Jenson's had no choice but to give her back to them.

James Meegan was once again out of work and had a broken leg.  Francine was in her play pen crying.  James Meegan headed towards the play pen and when he reached it, he grabbed Francine by the neck and shook her.  Francine stopped crying and was now gasping for air.  James took her to the bedroom and Lillian tried to perform CPR on her, however  Francine was not responding. 

Francine did not die right away, she suffered for hours and died as day was breaking. Her older sister Maria saw her on the bed and though her mother tried to make excuses, Maria knew that Francine was dead.

Lillian dressed Francine and her husband put her body into a suitcase and then placed it in the trunk of the car. They drove to Arizona to a relatives home and left their other children there. James and Francine then drove off alone. They drove to a deserted area and took Francine's body out of the trunk. James set her down on the ground and poured gasoline over her body. At this point, Lillian turned away not wanting to watch. James then lit a match and threw it on Francine's body.

Lillian's sister Lucy was the one who finally broke the story of James having killed Francine. She did so under the threat that if she ever talked, he would kill her and her family, however, she ended up telling a social worker that she had been dating.

When the Police confronted James and Lillian, they denied ever having a child called Francine, however, it was clear that they had since there was a birth certificate for her with them listed as the parents.  Lillian made up some story about their daughter having been kidnapped and how they didn't trust the Police so they had never reported it.  The story was obviously a lie.

In Prescot, Arizona Jacque Price was reading the newspaper and saw a picture of Francine and immediately knew this was the baby that had been found burned in the desert.

When confronted by Police again, Lillian told the story of what had happened to Francine. On that same day, Maria, who was at this time 17 years old, gave her testimony about the day her sister died.  Oddly, Maria had this to say to the Police about her father:

"I know this might seem like my father was brutal and 
killed  her, but if you knew my dad you would know 
he's a very  loving father." 

Lillian Meegan plead guilty to felony child abuse and James Meegan was going to plead guilty to first-degree murder. James changed his mind and started claiming that Lillian had killed Francine. James received a life in prison sentence. Lillian was sentenced to 18 years. 

Francine Meegan was laid to rest in Prescot Arizona. 

Dennis and Valerie Jensen, surrounded by family members, mourn in 1996 at the grave Francine Meegan. Francine's headstone is inscribed with these words, "Forever in our hearts".

Francine Lori Toni Meegan
Posted 2009-02-07 by Judy Wight Branson :: jlwight@northlink.com
Las Vegas Review-Journal, Las Vegas, Nevada
Sunday, October 20, 1996

Francine Lori Toni Meegan - Those she touched say goodbye
Family and friends of murdered 10-month-old Francine Meegan gather at her Arizona grave site.

By Carri Geer Review-Journal

PRESCOTT, Ariz. - As cool winds blew clouds across the sky, residents of three states gathered Saturday morning to remember a young girl who touched each of them in different ways.

Members of the Prescott community knew her for nearly six years as 'Baby Jane Doe' before they learned her true identity: 10-month-old Francine Lori Toni Meegan.

Gerardo Vazquez never met Francine, but early this year he shared information with Las Vegas police that led them to her killer. Vazquez traveled from Visalia, Calif., to attend Saturday's memorial service at Mountain View Cemetery.

'Francine knows she's loved,' said Vazquez, a social worker. 'This community's showing that to her, and hopefully now she'll be able to rest in peace.'

Francine was born Dec. 8, 1989, in Las Vegas to James and Lillian Meegan. Cowboys found her charred body Oct. 9, 1990, about a mile off Interstate 17 in the rocky hills between Phoenix and Flagstaff.

Members of the Yavapai County sheriff's office tried in vain to solve the case for the next several years. Detective Ted Symonds joined the investigation last year and helped organize Saturday's service.

'We just felt like for all of us there needed to be this closure,' said Symonds, an ordained minister.

Residents of Prescott, with a population of about 30,000, also held a memorial service shortly after finding the unidentified girl's body.

Vazquez said he acquired his information about Francine while dating one of Lillian Meegan's sisters. After much thought, he notified Las Vegas police on Jan. 10.

'Learning of her death saddened me,' Vazquez told about 45 people gathered around Francine's grave Saturday. 'Learning of the cover-up angered me.'

Shortly after Francine's birth, she went to live with friends of the Meegan family in Santa Ana, Calif. Dennis and Valerie Jensen planned to adopt the girl and gave her a new name, Danielle Nicole.

The Jensens, now divorced, said the Meegans took the child back in early September 1990. They never saw her again.

Dennis and Valerie Jensen traveled to Prescott with their three teen-age sons for the service. Dennis Jensen placed a framed photograph of the smiling infant among the flowers around her gravestone.

Authorities believe James Meegan shook his daughter to death in early October 1990. He and his wife then took the body to Arizona, where James Meegan set it on fire.

Francine's disappearance went undetected until Vazquez contacted authorities. Las Vegas police arrested James and Lillian Meegan in March.

Jacque Price, the wife of a sergeant in the sheriff's office, was reading a newspaper article about the Meegans when she made the connection to Baby Jane Doe.

'I didn't even read the whole story,' she said Saturday. 'I just knew.'

Symonds introduced Price during the service and said, 'probably all of us weren't as convinced as she was, I'll be the first to admit that.'

But statements from Lillian Meegan and her 17-year-old daughter, Maria, soon helped convince authorities. DNA tests later removed any doubt.

Lillian Meegan, 35, pleaded guilty in May to a felony charge of child abuse and neglect with substantial bodily harm for failing to seek medical attention when Francine suffered fatal injuries.

District Judge Sally Loehrer sentenced her last month to 18 years in prison.

A jury convicted 39-year-old James Meegan in August of first-degree murder. The panel later heard evidence during a penalty hearing but failed to agree on a sentence.

Loehrer is scheduled to sentence him Oct. 29. He faces either a life sentence with the possibility of parole after 10 years or a life term with no chance for future freedom.

Two jurors, including foreman Roy Shupe, attended the service. Shupe spoke at the gathering and said some panel members feel anger about the jury's inability to agree on 'what seemed so obvious.'

'The jury agonized over every piece of this,' he said.

Shupe then placed a black-and-white teddy bear, a toy his 5-year-old daughter wanted to give up for Francine, on the gravestone. He said he hoped it would bring kindness and softness to the infant.

'All I know about you is the pain you went through,' he said.

Representatives of the Clark County district attorney's office, including the two attorneys who prosecuted the Meegan case, also attended the service.

'I am not normally at a loss for words,' Chief Deputy District Attorney John Lukens said, tears filling his eyes. 'It is hard for me to speak today.'

He told those in attendance that residents of Prescott kept Francine alive for the past six years.

'There are people here from three states,' he said. 'People who share a common bond - a very small child. Now no one can hurt her.'

Valerie Jensen accepted condolences after the service as she visited with relatives and new acquaintances at the cemetery.

'It's amazing how many people are here,' she said. 'I can't even express my gratitude and appreciation for everything this town has done for our family."


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