A Florida woman has offered forgiveness to her former boyfriend after a judge sentenced him to life in prison for stabbing her 32 times nearly two years ago.
Robert Lee Burton Jr., 22, expressed remorse and begged for mercy prior to his sentence inside a Pinellas County courtroom in Clearwater, Fla., Monday afternoon. Burton blamed his rage on untreated bipolar disorder, but Judge Keith Meyer sentenced him to life in prison without parole for his assault on Melissa Dohme.
Burton pleaded guilty to an attempted first-degree murder charge in August.
He repeatedly stabbed Dohme, 21, Jan. 24, 2012, in Clearwater, Fla., and left her for dead, according to authorities. Police said Burton first stabbed her with a pocket knife and then grabbed a bigger knife to continue the attack.
Even though part of Dohme's face remains paralyzed from the attack, she is ready to forgive Burton and move on with her life.
"I offer forgiveness and I forgive him," Dohme said Monday after the sentencing. "Forgiveness is a sign of letting go and when you forgive someone that hurts you, you take away their power."
Dohme left the courthouse with her boyfriend, Cameron Hill, a Clearwater EMT. Hill was one of the first responders who helped saved Dohme's life following the attack.
"It's definitely tough to look at the guy who tried to kill the girl that I love, but it's a little easier now that I know he got what he deserved," Hill said.
Dohme says she's not bitter about the attack because it led to her meeting Hill. But she is relieved knowing Burton will spend his remaining days behind bars.
"I'm very thankful that he will forever be in prison. Everything he did to me I believe that it could only be a life sentence," Dohme said. "I wasn't able to walk away with ten or twenty stabs. Only after thirty-two stab wounds and Robert Burton thought I was dead did he walk away. The only justice in return was a life sentence."
Dohme had read an impact statement from the witness stand Monday to recount her harrowing story prior to sentencing.
"He was just stabbing over and over with the switch blade knife and that's when I was leaving my hands up because I knew he was trying to stab me in the eyes and heart," she said.
On the day of the attacked, two witnesses intervened and stopped the stabbing, according to police. They were able to provide a description of the attacker, who fled in a vehicle. Burton was later arrested for the crime as Dohme fought for her life with stab wounds to her face and neck.
Burton initially told the judge he would only plead guilty if he could serve less than 10 years. The judge dismissed that request, but Burton still entered a guilty plea.
Dohme has since undergone several surgeries and rehab for her injuries. In addition to her blossoming relationship, Dohme has graduated from college and become a nurse since the attack.