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First responder proposes at Rays game to domestic violence survivor he aided

ST. PETERSBURG — The young woman in cowboy boots strode onto the infield turf, waving to the crowd of 10,000 at Monday's Tampa Bay Rays' game, readying herself to throw out the first pitch.

A man in a blue jacket ran out to her, to present her with the ball. On it, he had inked in red: WILL YOU MARRY ME?

She gasped. He sunk to one knee and opened a little black box. He looked up at the woman who, three years ago, he found close to death on the pavement outside of her home. Who, somehow, he knew would survive. Who he had come to love.

She said yes, and they kissed in front of the cameras.

On a January night in 2012, Cameron Hill responded to a 911 call he'd never forget. On the pavement, he found a young woman so drenched in blood "you couldn't tell she was blond." She had been stabbed 32 times outside her home near Crest Lake Park by a former boyfriend.

Cameron knew nothing about her, not even her name. But as the Bayflite helicopter rose into the night sky with Melissa Dohme inside, Cameron felt something inside him shift — "a sixth sense."

He knew he would see her again.

Melissa, then 20, spent three weeks in the hospital, flat-lining four times and suffering nerve damage that partly paralyzed one side of her face. To the surprise of her doctors, she left rehab walking on her own. She traveled to Europe. She went back to school, her drive to become a nurse even stronger.

In the fall of 2012, two of her first responders surprised her when she spoke at a church. Cameron was one. They hugged, and made plans to meet again.

"I had this feeling about him," she said.

Neither one was sure how things would play out. She was hesitant to like anyone, unsure a relationship was possible. Cameron, confused, found his thoughts consumed by Melissa, her green eyes, her cowboy boots.

He watched her win an award at her St. Petersburg College-Clearwater graduation and felt dizzy with admiration. He took her on their first official date. They listened to country music, went truck mudding, began to spend every day together.

"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 in 2013, after he saw her through the trial of her ex-boyfriend. "He's the one I've been waiting for. My fairy tale."

Information from Times files was used in this report.