CLEARWATER — Two people walking near Crest Lake Park before dawn Tuesday came upon a horrific scene: a 20-year-old woman being repeatedly stabbed by a large man.
Police say one of the passers-by fought off the attacker, who was the wounded woman's ex-boyfriend. The knife-wielding assailant drove off and was arrested hours later after he overdosed on pills and got into a car wreck in Pasco County, investigators said.
The stabbing attack occurred about 3:15 a.m. in the 300 block of S Glenwood Avenue, on the west side of the park near downtown Clearwater.
Melissa Dohme, 20, who lives next to the park, was stabbed several times in the upper body and was airlifted to Bayfront Medical Center with life-threatening injuries, police said. She identified her attacker as her former boyfriend — Robert L. Burton, 20, of St. Petersburg.
The two witnesses who intervened and stopped the stabbing were not injured. The Clearwater Police Department isn't naming the witnesses, but officials say it was a man and his girlfriend who happened to be in the area at the time.
"The actions the male witness took were commendable," said Clearwater police spokeswoman Elizabeth Watts. "He pulled the suspect off of the victim and struggled with him before the suspect ran away. Many people would not have intervened, especially given the circumstances and what was taking place."
Burton, the suspect in the case, is 6 feet, 4 inches tall and weighs 245 pounds, according to jail records.
About 7 a.m. Tuesday, hours after the attack, Burton got into a traffic crash in Hudson, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
Clearwater police say Burton had apparently overdosed on unknown pills and was taken to Bayonet Point Hospital in Hudson.
Burton was still undergoing medical treatment later Tuesday but was expected to recover. When he regains consciousness, he'll be placed under arrest, police said. When he's released from the hospital, he'll be taken to the Pasco County Jail to await extradition to Pinellas County.
Burton was previously arrested last October on a charge of domestic battery. He was arrested again in December for failing to appear in court on the battery charge, according to Pinellas County Jail records.
Meanwhile, Dohme remained in critical condition at Bayfront on Tuesday. Her Facebook page indicates that she's a country music fan who attended Clearwater High School.
Mike Brassfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4151.