Adrienne Klasky, a daughter of a prominent family from Pascagoula, Mississippi, was a loving person destined for greatness. However, to the surprise of her friends and family, Adrienne married Michael David Graham in October, 1980 and soon gave birth to two sons.
Adrienne began telling friends that her husband had been emotionally and physically abusive to her not long after she became a mother but was embarrassed to come forward about the abuse since she and her family were well known in Pascagoula. Adrienne remained in the abusive marriage until she separated from her abuser nearly six years later.
Adrienne’s estranged husband began stalking her, her family and friends relentlessly after the separation. Unfortunately at this time Mississippi did not have laws to protect women from stalking, nor was there a mandatory arrest law for misdemeanor domestic violence assault. Adrienne was finally able to obtain a protection order – one year after the separation and eight months after her divorce was final. The stalking became even more aggressive. Her life had turned into a nightmare of constant harassment from her ex-husband. She went to great lengths to try to avoid him. He threatened to kill her many times and she knew he had guns. At 33 and afraid to live alone, she and her two sons moved in with her parents. She knew for years that her abuser would kill her. She just didn’t know when.
That day came on April 7, 1989. After years of stalking and harassing Adrienne, her abuser followed through on his promises to kill her. Adrienne sat in her vehicle at a red light in downtown Pascagoula, MS, when her ex-husband pulled up beside her door, pulled out a shotgun, and shot her at point blank range. Adrienne Klasky was killed instantly.
The entire community was in shock after this tragedy. How could something like this happen to one of its citizens? Why were there no laws on the books that made stalking a criminal and prosecutable offense? How could Adrienne die after fighting so hard to live? Outrage ran rampant in Pascagoula, along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, the state and the nation. Criminal justice officials and lawmakers fought to make drastic changes to protect women and Mississippi enacted its first stalking law in 1992.
On October 10, 1989, Adrienne’s abuser and killer was sentenced to life for her murder. He was granted a parole hearing on three (3) separate occasions and each were denied. He was then transferred on April 4, 2004, to the Governor’s mansion to serve as a trusty. On July 19, 2008, the unthinkable happened. Gov. Haley Barbour commuted the killer’s life sentence, effectively setting him free on parole through an indefinite suspension of his sentence. Gov. Barbour did not contact the parole board or any of Adrienne’s friends or family prior to his decision.
Friends, family, victim advocates, criminal justice officials, law enforcement officers, legislators, elected local officials, and the Gulf Coast Center for Nonviolence pleaded with the governor through calls and letters to reverse his decision to release Adrienne’s killer. This was to no avail, and to this day Gov. Barbour has never personally responded to any of the pleas, the family, nor the media.
Adrienne’s story represents the real fear that domestic violence victims possess on a daily basis. The Gulf Coast Center for Nonviolence understands the need to provide a safe space for victims to seek solace, support and advocacy to make a clean and safe break from their abusive homes. Adrienne’s House is this safe space. We are honored to be able to provide shelter and services to victims in Adrienne’s name and highlight the fight she fought to free herself from abuse. She made the difficult choice to leave her abusive marriage and opened the door for many individuals from this community to do the same.
Frank Gruich Center
Pascagoula Beach Park