Editor’s note: Dawn Franklin shared with the Sun Herald the violence she suffered at the hands of her abusive boyfriend. The Sun Herald cautions readers that some of the descriptions are graphic in nature.
Dawn Franklin kept the beatings, the verbal lashings and the rapes to herself.
She kept quiet about the puppy he allowed her to have for two days, until he got mad when it urinated on the carpet and drowned it under a kitchen faucet.
“I … could just hear him holding her under the running water and her screaming for air and finally, after a few minutes, she just quit screaming and I knew she was dead,” she said. “He felt like he had the right to take a life.”
And taking Franklin’s own life is what her boyfriend, a violent man with a history of abusing women, almost did the last time she was with him.
"I told him point blank I was scared of him, that I knew he was going to kill me," she said, her hands trembling as she reached for tissue to wipe away her tears. If she tried to leave him, he warned her, he'd track down one of her children and kill them so she could live the rest of her life "knowing it was my fault that they had died."
Franklin sat down with the Sun Herald to share her story of domestic violence at the hands of a man who had killed before to encourage other victims to get help before it’s too late.
In 2015, Franklin worked up the courage to testify against David Adele, 50, in George County.
Her testimony sent Adele to a Mississippi prison for the rest of his life with no chance of parole.
But it wasn’t until Franklin’s last day with Adele the day he repeatedly beat her, stomped on her and strangled her for nearly two hours that she learned Adele had years earlier beaten a woman to death.
He was “pure evil,” she said, and a proud member of the Aryan Brotherhood, a white-supremacist gang. He was a man, she said, who had no qualms about killing anyone or anything.
“He was predator,” she said, “and he preyed on me.”
District Attorney Tony Lawrence and Assistant District Attorney Leilani Tynes prosecuted Adele as a habitual offender because that meant a stiffer penalty for him.
“Dawn Franklin lived a nightmare for two years with David Adele,” Lawrence said. “He controlled her every move and even tried to control her thoughts. He brought hell to her world and when she finally stood up and said ‘no more,’ she almost paid for that defiance with her life.”
Adele ended up in Lucedale after his release from an Illinois prison. He was living with one of Franklin’s neighbors.
“They introduced me to him, so I started talking to him,” she said.
Franklin said Adele knew she was vulnerable because she was going through a divorce. He knew she was afraid because she had been a stay-at-home mother who hadn’t had a job since she finished college, married and started having children.
“He said all the right things about how I could do this, how I could be strong and be out on my own, and I believed him,” she said. “I thought he was a friend, somebody who was encouraging me.”
Franklin, who didn’t have a car or a job, needed help. Adele persuaded her to let him move in to help with expenses. She ended up losing custody of two of her children after the courts learned Adele had a murder conviction.
Adele had convinced Franklin he didn’t really kill anyone, that he’d instead fought with a man, who had passed out and choked on his own vomit. He told her the cops blamed him for the man’s death, but he was just protecting himself. She would later learn Adele hadn’t killed a man at all.
His first killing
Franklin said Adele had a way of persuading vulnerable women such as herself to do whatever he wanted. On the day he nearly killed her, she found out Adele had actually killed an ex-girlfriend, Sherrie Stockwell, 34.
“I called his grandmother after he was arrested for hurting me,” Franklin said. “She told me they had stood by him during his trial over Sherrie.
“I said, ‘Who’s Sherrie?’”
Adele’s grandmother said she was the ex-girlfriend Adele had murdered on May 8, 1992.
He had bound Stockwell’s hands and feet, gagged her and beaten her to death in a home they shared in Cahokia, Ill.
He served 15 years of a 30-year sentence for killing Stockwell.
Just three weeks before the killing, Adele had pleaded guilty to tying and gagging her in a domestic assault, and was ordered to undergo treatment for alcoholism.
“I was just in shock,” Franklin said. “I had no idea.”
The abuse begins
Franklin’s relationship with Adele began in October 2010.
Before long, he controlled every aspect of her life what time she woke up and went to bed, what they would eat and whether she could leave the house.
He went on drinking binges, slugging a fifth of vodka in four hours, chasing it with beer.
And he watched her every move.
She learned just how closely after she said she was going across the street for five minutes to check on an elderly neighbor. Soon after, he was assaulting her for lying to him about how long she was going to be at the neighbor’s home.
“I had been gone six minutes,” she said.
By then, he had broken her down emotionally.
“He would tell me I was a liar, that I was no good, that I was going to have to pay for lying to him,” she said.
Usually, she said, he would start drinking, then bring up what he saw as her shortcomings.
“He’d have me sit down in front of him and he’d pretty much interrogate me,” she said. “If I didn’t say the right thing, there would be a backhand in the face. You pretty much go into survival mode. I had to watch what I was doing and what I was saying because I knew once he started drinking, the next time I was going to pay the consequences.”
Adele alienated her from her friends and stood over her when she called her parents in another state, to make sure she said nothing about the abuse.
A way of life
Soon, the abuse occurred so often it became a way of life.
Franklin said she was expected to have sex with Adele every day, even during and after a beating. If she refused, he forced himself on her.
On other days, she said, he ripped her apart emotionally so she felt there was no value in her life.
On one occasion, he let her go to bed early, then walked in the room, yanked her out of bed and started stomping on her throat. He was convinced she had spoken to a black man, and for him that was unforgivable.
She pleaded and pleaded for him to stop, and that time he did.
She always had to apologize for making him angry.
In Adele’s eyes, Franklin said, she was to blame for the abuse she was suffering.
The violence varied. On one occasion, he made her watch when he stabbed his dog in the leg because she wasn’t nursing her puppies the way he approved of. One day, the dog disappeared.
“I knew he killed her,” she said.
Another time, he found a dead possum in the yard with five of its babies still alive. Adele forced her to watch as he drowned each possum baby in a bucket of water.
“He had no conscience,” she said.
On another occasion, she tried to scream for help during a beating in the bathroom. She cried out through a partially opened window, but Adele head-butted her and she fell to the floor unconscious.
“It got to the point where I didn’t feel like a person anymore,” she said. “I just felt like if this is my life, I’d rather be dead than go through another day or experience another drunk with him.”