BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A Baton Rouge judge sentenced Frank Atkins, 28, to life plus an additional 50 years on Monday. Atkins was convicted of second-degree murder and attempted murder over the summer.
On June 19, 2012, Atkins' birthday, he shot his estranged pregnant wife, Kayla, four times. Three of the bullets hit her spine, the fourth lodged in her arm, and is still there. She is now paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair. Their unborn child was born prematurely and only survived for one hour.
"God kept me here for a reason," Kayla Atkins said. "I'm a voice."
She says she will be an advocate for other victims of domestic abuse. She's also in the process of going back to school to become a social worker. Her family is in need of a van equipped for Kayla's needs to help her reach her dream.
They've set up a fundraising page in order to raise the money:
Kayla says she stared at her estranged husband during the sentencing, but he never looked at her.
"He didn't show any remorse," she said.
Atkins has two other children. They are six and four.
"They ask everyday, constantly, 'Ma, when you going to get up and walk again? Why did he do this to you?' I don't have those answers."
Atkins says one of her next goals is to get a divorce, to separate herself from Frank Atkins. She says during their marriage, she got two different court orders after her husband had been arrested for beating her and then threatening her with a gun.
Baton Rouge has thousands of domestic violence cases.
Melanie Fields, a special prosecutor of domestic violence with the district attorney's office, says it's the repeat offenders who are dangerous. It's one reason why she supports the new domestic violence court.
"If you start with misdeameanors we're more likely to prevent the murders," Field said.
The first cases in that court come up in a few weeks before Judge Laura Prosser. She says first time, low level offenders may be best served by the courts counseling programs to help them unlearn the behaviors that got them to this point.
"The repeat offender rates for people who have not gone through a program such as this in domestic violence is 60 to 80 percent. For those people who've gone through this particular program, the recitivizm rate is usually around 25 to 35 percent" said Judge Prosser.