No one blamed her for making that choice. Her relationship with her high school boyfriend, Robert Burton, escalated to deadly abuse before she even realized. Melissa told BBC that when they began dating, Robert was “charming and funny and kind of like a gentle giant.” However, when she tried to break up with him, he changed entirely.
He began to abuse her emotionally and physically
Melissa wanted to go to college and pursue her dream of becoming a nurse. This upset Robert and he reacted rashly by manipulating Melissa and saying that she should be “helping him, not abandoning him,” and threatening to kill himself if she left him.
But his mental abuse escalated to physical abuse. One night, Robert became upset and attacked Melissa who was luckily able to escape and call the police. Robert was sentenced to 10 hours in jail for domestic battery.
Three months later, Robert called Melissa in the middle of the night. She said, “[Robert] had gone to court that morning for the battery charge and said he needed closure from our terrible relationship and just wanted a hug. If I saw him just one more time he said he would leave me alone forever.”
He tried to kill her
Melissa knew it was a bad idea to meet Robert. She said, “I didn’t listen to my intuition telling me it was wrong, and that was the biggest mistake I ever made. I took my pepper spray and phone, and thought I could protect myself if I needed to.”
When he embraced Melissa, Robert opened a switch blade and stabbed her 32 times.
Melissa said, “He left me lying in the road and I thought I was going to die. I just prayed to God to save me and give me a chance.”
God gave her that chance.
A miracle happened
Miraculously, a boy and girl walked by and witnessed Robert stabbing Melissa. They called the police, which Robert away and heralded the help Melissa needed to survive.
An emergency response team arrived at the scene. People don’t usually survive a stabbing as brutal as Melissa’s, but the team saved her life. CBS news reported her stating, “I remember when I woke up in the hospital… and I remember just thinking I’m alive… and was just so relieved and thankful to be alive.”
Her life was forever changed
Melissa was alive, but she was different. No longer did she want to be a nurse, instead, she wanted to use her story to help other abuse victims. No longer did she want to marry, because she vowed to be single forever. But while following her dream to help abuse victims, Melissa finally realized she could love again.
Meeting the love of her life
Melissa met her future husband nearly a year after he saved her life. Cameron Hill was a firefighter who responded to her stabbing and was invited to hear her story at an event for advocating abuse victims. He attended the event and met Melissa and her mom. After talking to them, he invited them to have dinner at the fire department and offered Melissa his support.
Melissa said, “I couldn’t stop thinking about Cameron. I knew that I had feelings for him but I was trying to ignore them. I wondered, ‘Am I feeling this way because he was one of the firemen who helped me?’” But it didn’t take her long to realize that wasn’t the case. “The more we talked the more we realized we had in common.”
Cameron supported her in everything. He took her to the shooting range to help her qualify for a concealed weapons permit, and he stood by her side when she had to face Robert in court.
After dating for a few years, Melissa was invited to throw the first pitch at a Tampa Bay Rays baseball game. Cameron came out of the dugout to hand Melissa the baseball. On it he had written, “Will you marry me?”
Of course Melissa said yes, and proved that beautiful things can be born from tragedy. “When I look back on that night, I can’t think of it as all bad anymore because I met Cameron,” she told the Tampa Bay Times. “He’s the one I’ve been waiting for. My fairy tale.”