Stacey Anderson decided one day, after so many years, to sit down and search Google for man’s name — David Adele.
It was shortly after Mother’s Day weekend, and she had been crying.
“All I heard in my head was Google David, Google David,” she said. “I don’t know why. Then, I found the stories.”
What Anderson learned would reopen old wounds for some in her family and provide closure to others.
Adele had beaten to death Anderson’s mother, 34-year-old Sherrie Stockwell, on Mother’s Day weekend 1992 in a home they had shared in Cahokia, Illinois. Anderson was 12 at the time and one of three of Stockwell’s children.
Anderson’s search soon led her to other stories about how Adele had nearly beaten to death another woman, this time in rural George County in South Mississippi.
The woman was Dawn Franklin, and she survived to testify against Adele at a trial that would send him to a Mississippi prison for the rest of his life.
Freed after 15 years
Anderson’s family hadn’t been as fortunate as Franklin when Adele went to trial in Illinois for killing Stockwell.
He received a 15-to-30-year sentence for felony murder.
Adele was released from prison after 15 years. As a free man, he would soon start hitching rides across the United States. He stopped in New Orleans, where he picked up prostitutes for awhile before making his way to George County and charming his way into Franklin’s life.
Anderson wanted to meet the woman who had so much in common with her mother because of Adele.
“It was like the more research I did, the more I found out,” she said. “I wanted to know more. I had to know more. It’s like crazy how this has come together.”
Anderson reached out to the Sun Herald to find out if there were a way for her to meet Franklin.
In a strange twist of fate, Anderson, a resident of Bay City, Wisconsin, happened to have a flight booked to Biloxi. It was her first trip to Mississippi — to attend a friend’s wedding.
The Sun Herald arranged for what became an emotional meeting between the two women who had so many things in common. They met at the Sun Herald office in Gulfport.
‘She didn’t know’
Franklin never knew about Stockwell until after Adele nearly beat Franklin to death one last time.
Shortly after that, Adele’s grandparents told Franklin that they had stood by him when he killed Stockwell but they couldn’t do anything like that again.
It was then that Franklin learned her abuser had killed before.
She knew he’d spent time in prison, but he told her he was set up for a crime. He claimed he had gotten into a bar fight with a man who ended up aspirating on his own vomit and died. He said the cops blamed him, but he wasn’t responsible for the death.
“Lies. It was all lies,” Franklin said.
And like Franklin, Stockwell was vulnerable when she met him because she was going through a divorce.
In both cases, Adele would charm the women for months and reel them in before the beatings would start.
By then, Franklin says, it is too late.
“You were his and you did what he said,” Franklin said. “You didn’t talk back. You didn’t question him. You did what you were told.”
And like other abusers, Adele found a way to isolate the two women from friends and family they loved the most. And he instilled the kind of fear in the women that couldn’t be erased.
First, he found out everything about them, like where their children and other family lived, they said. Then, he threatened to kill the women’s children or family if they ever told anyone about the abuse.
Franklin lost temporary custody of her children because of Adele, she said, and any conversations she had with family, he monitored to ensure she wasn’t crying out for help.
He moved Stockwell to Illinois to keep her away from her children, her parents and other relatives.
When her children or family would call, he’d always come up with excuses about why Stockwell couldn’t come to the phone.
‘Until death Shrea’
For nearly two years, Franklin wondered who the woman was in a picture that Adele carried around with him in his wallet.
She had tried to get him to tell her, but he wouldn’t.
“He didn’t have a lot of pictures, so I knew this person was important to him,” she said. “I would ask him and ask him but he would just say it was someone he knew.”
When Anderson met Franklin, she brought along some pictures of her mom, a petite woman with blonde hair who loved to race snowmobiles and cook for her family.
Immediately, Franklin knew.
“It’s her,” Franklin said. “It was your mom in that picture he carried around.”
Franklin knew more.
For years, she had asked Adele about a tattoo he had on his chest that read, “Until the end, Shrea.”
She asked Adele about it.
“When I asked him,” Franklin said, “he just said it was someone he knew.”
The tattoo was about Stockwell, the woman he kept by his side until the day he beat her to death.
‘He liked to scare me’
Anderson remembers Adele as a man who frightened her and her brothers.
At one point, she said, her father made the decision not to allow her or two brothers to be around their mother unless Adele wasn’t there.
It happened after one visit when Adele was carrying a gun and threatening her brothers.
There were others times when things happened with Adele that made Anderson realize just how mean he was.
Once, she was on Ferris wheel with Adele and asked him not to rock their seat back and forth because she was nervous.
“I told him to please don’t rock it because it scares me,” she said. “He’d just look at me and rock it harder and harder. He liked to scare me.”
After the incident with her brothers involving the gun, Anderson said she and her siblings didn’t get to see their mother much.
“That was David’s little opening,” she said. “We really didn’t get to see her ... because David wouldn’t let her be alone.”
Just months before Stockwell’s death, she tried to get away from Adele.
It came after a severe beating that began one night at 6 p.m. and ended the following morning at 2 a.m.
Adele, Anderson said, had stripped her mother naked, bound her, and beat her until she ended up hospitalized in an intensive care unit.
Stockwell survived that time, Anderson said, because she managed to wiggle her way out of the house and through snow until she reached someone to call authorities for help.
Adele was arrested and jailed — but it wouldn’t be long before he’d be free again.
Trying to get away
Stockwell was trying to get away from Adele in the months before her death.
Like Franklin, she told Adele she didn’t want to be with him anymore.
Both knew Adele got extremely vicious when he was drinking alcohol, usually while drinking his favorite vodka.
Stockwell got a restraining order, but Adele said that was just a piece a paper to him that wouldn’t keep him away.
She wrote to her parents about what he’d done to her.
She talked about how Adele would tied her up with duct tape or whatever he wanted to use and would proceed to beat her.
Anderson saw the signs.
She remembered her mother would show up for a ballgame in the summer wearing a turtleneck shirt. When she asked her mother why she was wearing that, Anderson said she pulled the shirt down to show the bruise around her neck where he had hit and strangled her.
Stockwell’s friends at her job also knew she was being abused and were trying to get her away from Adele.
They pooled their money and bought a plane ticket for Stockwell to fly home for what would end up being her last visit with her loved ones.
When she went to leave, she told her family she planned to return by March.
But on May 8, 1992, everything would change.
Stockwell had set up a date with someone new that Mother’s Day weekend.
Adele found out about it and showed up at her home.
Adele tied her up, beat her to death and placed a white sheet over her body.
Stockwell’s friends had gotten worried because she hadn’t showed up for work for days and called police to go check on her at her home.
When authorities got to Stockwell’s home, Adele was outside.
He told authorities he had killed her.
Stockwell’s parents, Lyle and Shirley Stockwell, tried doing everything they could to get their daughter away from Adele before she was killed.
They tried to bribe her with money or use tough love, but nothing worked.
“We would pray every morning to keep Sherrie safe today,” her mother said. “It took a while after her death to realize that God did keep her safe by taking her. She’s in heaven now and safe and she doesn’t have to deal with David (Adele) anymore. and that sort of comforted us. Even though we lost her, we know she is safe now.”
Staying in touch
Anderson and Franklin forged a bond they plan to foster, a bond brought on by violence, heartache and love.
Anderson doesn’t want people to forget about her mother.
“She was quiet a lady,” Anderson said. “You couldn’t have asked for a better mom. She was very hug-y and kiss-y. I love talking about her.
“She was just so loving and caring and generous. She just wanted to help everyone. She loved to cook and she loved her family. She went all out for our birthday. We had big parties. She always bought me flowers and balloons and we played Barbies together.
“She was loved by so many,” Anderson said.
Franklin believes Stockwell was watching over both of them and had a hand in bringing them together.
“I believe it was your mom,” Franklin told Anderson. “I truly believe that.”