I first want to say thank you to the court and your honor for giving me the opportunity to speak today. This is an opportunity I am very blessed to be alive to do. On January 24th 2012 my life was forever altered because of Robert Burton. This man came to my house with tears of guilt, deceit, and manipulation, to convince me into walking outside. He told me if I gave him two seconds of my time, He would never bother me again, he requested a simple hug...he just wanted some closure.
The moment I walked outside, leaving my sleeping mom and brother unaware of what was about to happen, I felt the sharp pain of a switchblade beginning to stab me. First in my shoulder, then neck and face.
I begged and screamed for Robert to stop. Give me a chance. Let me live. But no one heard me and anything I said wasn't making him stop. Then came stab 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10…blood was everywhere, I was covered. 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 stabs and I was becoming weak and my fight wasn't working… it's hard to fight when the fights not fair. 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, I was being straddled in the middle of the street by a man a foot and a half taller and 120 pounds more than me. 21, 22, 23, 24, 25 stabs and I saw a girl with a phone trying to help, but then it only got worse… he went back to his truck and got a larger knife, now 26, 27, 27, stabs through my face, neck, arms and hands… 29, 30, 31 and finally the vicious attack was coming to an end as Roberts hand came down with the blade for the final stab wound.. number 32. Robert left me lying in the road. The horrific fight was over and he drove away, leaving me to die alone. I felt myself drifting away and dying in the road, I could no longer move or scream. So I began to do the only thing I had the strength left to do… I prayed. I first said a prayer to be saved because I was only 20 years old and didn't want my mom to walk out to see my murder. Once I realized it might be too late and I wasn't going to be alive much longer, for seconds felt like slow and grueling minutes, and no one was around… I prayed for God to forgive me of my sins and to please take me to heaven. Your honor, I want you to think of putting yourself in a parents shoes… if they were sleeping inside like my mom was, no idea that a man was attempting to murder their child, just feet from their front door. What length of time would any parent want this man off the streets?
I was a victim but I stand here today as a strong survivor.. although it was a struggles to get this far, time and prayer has healed my heart but the physical damage is forever permanent. Once first responders arrived and I was airlifted to the hospital, I was repeatedly resuscitated and my family was told I was so critical they didn't think I would make it and if I did, I would never be the same. I was a straight A college student, employee at Morton Plant Hospital and had dreams to be a nurse. The life I knew was ripped from under me. But why? An ex boyfriend was jealous that I left him and moved on.
I suffered a stoke that forever altered my balance and inner ear crystals that control dizziness. He knocked out numerous teeth and for over a year and a half, I didn't have any. I had to have root canals, fillings, braces, multiple retainers, and finally surgeries for dental implants to just get my smile back to how it was before the attack. Robert severed my facial nerve with his knife and I now have facial paralysis on the right side. I will never be able to smile at the world like I used to. I can't lift my eye brows or move my cheek and I never will be able to. The damage is permanent. I can close my eye now only because I had surgery 3 months ago to fix it in Boston at their facial nerve center. I will need treatment for the facial paralysis and synkensis it has caused every 3 months for the rest of my life. Trips to Boston will be costly, but it is my only choice. My nose, skull and jaw were fractured; my hand muscles are gone because his knife cut through them. I can't squeeze things, open jars, or cut my own food without my hand cramping. My left arm is weak and always in pain because of nerves being severed in my neck & shoulder… those were from the very first 2 stabs. I had to attend speech, physical, and occupational therapy for a year and a half. During therapy, I had to relearn how to live again, starting with how to walk, hold a pencil, brush my own teeth & hair… then gradually moving forward with cognitive therapy. The straight A student I was before has been taken from me, and I now have trouble paying attention to detail and focusing due to the trauma. It was like I was a 20 year old child --- leaving me dependent on my family when I was in the hospital and for the following months. Emotionally, I attended counseling for 1 year… they told me I had PTSD… nightmares & flashbacks will haunt me forever. The stress, pain, emotional as well as financial damage he caused onto my family is irreversible. It was difficult dealing with my own pain… but seeing my mom suffer-was unbearable.
Your honor, I pleaded and begged for Robert to stop. Anything I said didn't matter to him. I want you to think about this as the defendant is pleading for anything other than a life sentence. I didn't get the chase to walk away with 10 or 20 stabs. But only until he believed I was finally dead, that my life was taken. It took 32 stabs for him to stop. I believe the only justice in return is a life sentence. He has no regard for human life as you can see from the actions he displayed. If he was to be released in 20 or 30 years, there is nothing stopping him from finding me and finishing what he attempted to do. I will forever be in fear. Any other woman would be too. Robert Burton is extremely dangerous and capable of anything. I truly believe I would be in fear for my life and others lives every day if he is walking the streets once again. I think other women hiding in the silence of abuse will be encouraged to remain silent. Because even in a horrific case like this, the defendant can still possibly get out and return for revenge. He did everything in his power to take my life, so please your honor… grant him the same in return. By the grace of God this isn't a first degree murder case in your court today. I flat lined 4 times… I know I was saved for a reason and that is why I am here today. I have survived this horrible attack not to life my life regretting and moping in self pity or to be scared and always watching my back. I have survived to move on and change the lives of other women. I have survived to speak up and give hope to the hopeless. To show people it is possible to take something horrific and turn it around.
The only thing I came here today to tell Robert Burton directly is that I forgive him. When you choose to forgive those who hurt you, you forever take away their power and that's what I am doing today. Robert, I forgive you for coming to my house and attempting to murder me. Forgiveness is also a sign of letting go. And that is what I am doing today. Letting go of any memories, letting go of the pain I suffered, letting go of the hatred I have. I will never forget all I have been through. But I will never look back and be upset. I will always have physical scars to remind me forever of what happened. But I am beautiful and he will never take away my happiness. Robert showed me how strong I really am. He tried to knock me down, but forgot to remember God was waiting behind me to catch me, save me, heal me and love me.
Your honor, after hearing all that my family and I have been through, I hope you realize why I am asking for you to impose a life sentence for Robert Burton. Thank you again for giving me the chance to explain how much his actions have changed my life. All I ask is for justice and nothing more.
-Melissa Dohme, October 21, 2013, Pinellas County Justice Center
Tampa Bay Times News Article October 21, 2013