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Two years into the rapes, beatings and verbal attacks, Dawn Franklin decided she couldn’t take it anymore.
She worked up the courage to tell her attacker, David Adele, he wasn’t going to hit her any more. She told him she’d signed eviction papers and he had 30 days to get out of her Lucedale home. He didn’t say anything at first, but she knew a beating was coming.
“I knew just by telling him those words that I pretty much had signed my death warrant,” she said. “I knew I was going to pay because I had pretty much stood up to him, and telling him to go was pretty much the ultimate betrayal.”
After all, she said, she was his and he controlled everything.
“I belonged to him,” she said. “I didn’t talk back. I listened to him. I didn’t disagree. I did as I was told.”
Franklin had defied Adele.
But she thought she’d rather be dead than live another day under his control.
She didn’t know how to escape.
She couldn’t confide in anyone.
Adele had already threatened to kill her children if she left. And he’d already proven he’d have no problem taking a life.
She knew a lashing was coming and she didn’t have to wait long.
The last beating
Adele was slamming down 16-ounce beers the last day Franklin would spend with him. That day came on July 16, 2012.
She was baby-sitting a 3-year-old he allowed her to keep to bring in money for them. Usually, he wasn’t there when she kept the little girl.
He started drinking early in the morning in a back bedroom.
Franklin and the child stayed up front in the living room.
Later in the day, as Adele’s drunk wore on, he came in the living room and turned his attention to Franklin.
“He grabbed my arm, and I just said, ‘Don’t put your hands on me,’” she said. “That’s the last time he told me he was going to show me what it was to put his hands on me.”
Adele ordered Franklin to the bedroom. She knew she couldn’t stop it.
She feared for the little girl, so she put on the movie, “Shrek” in hopes of keeping the toddler occupied.
“I did as I was told,” she said.
Adele started punching her repeatedly.
If she fell to the floor, he stomped on her throat and arms.
“I knew at that point I was fixing to die,” she said. “All I could say was, ‘Oh my God, oh my God.’ I was repeating that.”
The attack went on for an hour and a half.
Adele screamed as he was punching Franklin repeatedly with a closed fist. She was hit, fell to the floor, got back up and was hit again.
The toddler heard the commotion and started crying hysterically.
At one point, the child ran to the bedroom door and started trying to get inside to help Franklin. Then the crying stopped, and Franklin begged for Adele to let her leave the room to check on the child.
‘She’ll be a good girl’
Franklin knew she had to do what she could to protect the toddler, but Adele followed Franklin out of the bedroom when she left to check on the little girl.
What Franklin saw next, she didn’t expect.
The toddler had pulled a kitchen chair next to the back door. She was trying to get the latch loose on the door to leave.
“She was crying,” Franklin said. “She wanted to go. She wanted her mom and she wanted her dad.”
Adele ordered Franklin to bring the child back to the bedroom with her.
Franklin begged him to keep her out of there.
He made the crying toddler stay there anyway.
“I remember hearing her plead for me,” Franklin said. “She was saying, ‘She’ll be a good girl, David, I promise. She’ll be good.’ He was so angry.”
And the toddler begged Adele to stop hurting Franklin, but he didn’t care.
Adele got angrier and angrier as the child cried for help for Franklin.
Franklin grabbed the toddler at one point and tried to back out of the bedroom with her. She had the child in her arms and the door partially closed when Adele reached though the small opening in the door and grabbed Franklin’s hair.
Adele pulled Franklin into the room by her hair with the toddler still in her arms.
Adele started beating her again, and Franklin fell to the floor, the child cradled beneath her.
The child continued to beg the man to stop hitting Franklin, but was crying and Adele said he’d kill the toddler if she’d didn’t shut up. By then, Adele had wrapped his hands around Franklin’s throat and was strangling her.
The child kept pleading for him to stop hurting Franklin, but Adele wanted the child to shut up or warned he’d kill her, too.
‘Please just let me live’
Franklin remembers pleading with Adele to let her live.
She apologized for asking him to leave.
“Please just let me live,” she told Adele, but he kept pounding her with his fists and stomping on her.
“I just remember the times he was hitting me that I thought I knew I was fixing to die,” she said. “People say their lives flash before their eyes in a near-death experience. It’s true.”
Franklin saw images in her mind of her three children from the time they were infants.
“It was powerful,” she said. “I remember smelling them, that scent that babies have when they are little. I just pleaded with God. I thought I was ready to die, but I realized I did want to live.”
Franklin thought about her children learning how she had been killed.
“At that point, that fear ... turned to anger,” she said. “I thought ‘I don’t want to go out like this. This is not the way my life is supposed to end.’ ”
While she was being choked, Franklin decided to pretend she had passed out.
Adele let go, but then the abuse started again.
Franklin begged Adele to forgive her for trying to evict him.
“I begged for mercy and he just told me he had no mercy, that it was my day to die,” Franklin said.
In between punches, Adele started yelling about his hands hurting because Franklin made him beat her.
Adele said his hands hurt too bad to keep beating her, so he decided to stop, go to the restroom and to make himself a pot of coffee.
A plea for help
Adele left a cellphone and a knife on the dresser in the bedroom when he stepped out. The toddler was still in the room.
Franklin knew she could occasionally get a text out if she managed to get the phone close enough to the window to catch a signal.
She was afraid. She knew if he caught her, he might start beating the child as well.
Franklin said she knew she had to do something because Adele had promised to kill her. She feared he’d kill the child as well once he finished Franklin off.
Franklin grabbed the cellphone, ran to the window and once she noticed a signal, she sent a text to the only couple she was allowed to be around because they took Franklin and Adele to get groceries.
The text read, ‘Call 911. He’s going to kill me.”
‘I wanted to live’
Adele had gotten too sore to continue with the beating.
“He threw a towel at me and told me to clean up my face because I looked disgusting,” she said.
Adele allowed Franklin and the child back in the living room. Franklin and the toddler sat on the couch. Adele went to the kitchen for his coffee.
Franklin was praying the couple had received her message. She didn’t know until she saw their car rounding the corner through a front window.
When the couple got to the door, Adele realized they were there and asked Franklin what she was going to do.
“I was kinda scared to answer the door, but I knew I wanted to live,” she said.
Franklin ran out and told the couple to grab the child.
Adele followed but Franklin was in the couple’s car by then.
She remembers the look on his face: “Pure evil,” she said.
They started to drive off when police and ambulance personnel made their way down the street.
The paramedics loaded Franklin in the ambulance and rushed her to the hospital.
They made sure the child was safe, and police officers took Adele into custody.
“I never thought I’d make it out alive,” she said.
Coming Tuesday: Dawn Franklin faces her abuser, the fear that remains and the need for other victims to get help