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Clearwater, Florida -- He was her high school sweetheart. In fact, she kept a scrapbook, filled with photos of their prom and homecoming pictures showing their smiling faces pressed tightly together.

Even the mother of Melissa Dohme said, "I always felt like she was protected with him. I never worried."

But, that's not the way things ended between Melissa and her ex-boyfriend Robert Burton.

The relationship changed drastically after high school. Melissa received seven scholarships for nursing school and couldn't wait to start her new curriculum at St. Pete College.

However, that future didn't include Robert.

"I tried to break up with him," she said. "But, he said he would kill me and kill himself if I did. So, we stayed together on and off for another year after we broke up. I needed to get him help. I was afraid for my life."

For good reason.

On Jan. 24, 2012, Robert told Melissa he wanted to see her one more time for a "hug," he claimed. Melissa indulged his wishes at Crest Lake Park in her neighborhood, just feet from her home.

That meeting changed her life forever.

When Melissa met Robert that fateful day she said, "He looked like pure evil. He had my murder on his mind." And, she was right. He tried to kill her by stabbing her 32 times, first with a pocket knife. Then, he went back to his truck to retrieve a much larger knife.

He stabbed her in her face, her head, her neck and her hands. Today in court during the sentencing phase of the case where Robert was found guilty of first degree attempted murder, Melissa testified and described in graphic detail what happened the day she nearly died.

She says she felt every stab wound. She felt her skull crack. She was "spitting out" her own teeth. She could taste the blood in her mouth. Then, she was left on the sidewalk to die, and Robert fled the scene in his truck.

"I prayed that my mother wouldn't see me like this. I prayed to be taken to heaven," Melissa said.

Shortly after that prayer, Melissa says she saw a light shining from the end of the block, and a police officer came to rescue her, followed by paramedics.

The nursing student admits, "I knew when they called Bayflight it was bad. They don't do that unless someone isn't going to make it. Then, they said they were going to intubate. I knew that wasn't good either. Then, I blacked out."

Melissa woke up in the hospital where she was told that she would never walk or talk again. She flatlined twice. She had a stroke. She was given countless transfusions from all the blood she lost.

But, Melissa is no ordinary girl. She is a fighter, a brave woman full of life and passion.

Not only is she walking and talking, she also went back to nursing school and worked harder than she ever has.

"I cried and cried because I used to be an A student. After this, I couldn't even do simple math problems. I had to work five times as hard just to make B's."

She's had more than 10 surgeries, including having eye-weights surgically installed into her eyelids to open and close them since Robert severed the facial nerve with his knife. He also severed precious nerves in her hand, controlling her fingers. She is a beautiful woman, but admits she can't smile all the way after the stroke.

Her would-be killer ex begged the court for mercy. His father told the judge that Robert was a "good kid" and did not have violent tendencies.

But in the end, the judge did not agree and sentenced Robert Lee Burton to life in prison.

The story does have a happy ending. Melissa fell in love with the handsome paramedic who saved her. She says she "knew something" was there between them, and so did he. She is a tireless advocate for domestic abuse survivors and speaks at rallies, events and participates in charity walks.

Melissa said she never wants her high school sweetheart to see the light of day.

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