Every once in a while, I get the chance to see something good happen to the victims of the criminal cases I've covered over the past 25 years.
Monday night was one of those times.
I cut short a trip home to see my parents so I could be in Jackson County when District Attorney Tony Lawrence presented Dawn Franklin the courage award.
Franklin told me that on her last day with Adele, he nearly beat her to death. It was only then that Franklin learned Adele had bound and beaten to death his former girlfriend, Sherri Stockwell, in 1992 in Illinois. He served 15 years for that crime and was back on the streets.
As the interview progressed, a litany of emotions struck me. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I was angry, and I was sad and I was horrified to imagine someone living through what Franklin had. I was also thankful she made it out of the relationship alive.
You see, Adele had repeatedly beaten and raped Franklin and had broken her down emotionally. She could hardly speak about the puppy she had for two days before he drowned it under a kitchen sink for urinating on the floor.
And then there were the beatings, the constant beatings, and the rapes and the isolation from friends and family and the threats to kill her children if she dared to speak of word about what was happening to her.
At Monday's victims' rights ceremony in Pascagoula, Lawrence described Franklin as a woman who had been “enslaved.”
Adele, he said, “told her when to eat, when to drink, when to sleep, when to wake and what to wear.”
“He controlled how much time she would talk to a neighbor, when she could talk to her family and what she would say to her family,” he said. “He controlled everything about her and if she resisted ... she was abused.”
On July 28, Franklin faced her attacker in a small courtroom in George County. By then, Adele had already tattooed a bloodied image of Franklin on his arm and had written letters praying for her death.
But because of her testimony, Lawrence said, Adele “will never touch another woman.”
Franklin's family, including her children, attended the ceremony with her. Her parents came in from Georgia to show their support.
When she accepted the award, she turned to her family to thank them and she thanked those in the district attorney's office who fought for her.
“Domestic violence is not pretty,” Franklin said. “There is nothing pretty about it. For anyone else this violence has touched, I pray that they understand there are people out there that care. They don't have to do it alone.”
And yes, I shed a tear or two when she accepted the award.
Afterwards, she told me, just as I expected she would, that when she thinks about what happened to her, she always remembers Stockwell.
“I think of her often," she said. "She is never far from my mind. This award is for her, too."