Timeline: The Life of Melissa Friedrich
May 16, 1935
Melissa is born in Burnt Church, New Brunswick.
Melissa moves to Ontario, lives with aunt and completes high school through evening correspondence at Stafford College.
Melissa meets future husband Russell Shephard -- factory worker. She marries Russell Shephard and has two children.
Melissa is charged with over thirty counts of fraud and forgery while in Ontario and Prince Edward Island. She is convicted and spends over five years in jail. See her criminal record (PDF).
Melissa is released from detention and returns to PEI.
Melissa meets Gordon Stewart, a widower, who is selling some property on PEI. They begin a romantic relationship even though she is still married to Russell Shephard.
Melissa and Gordon Stewart marry in Las Vegas and then later have another ceremony in Vancouver.
December 23, 1990
At their apartment in PEI, Gordon becomes delusional, and two hours later he's discovered frothing at the mouth on the floor. He's taken to the hospital where benzodiazepine is found in his system.
Gordon is charged with and pleads guilty to assaulting Melissa. He serves time in jail. She visits with him in jail.
March 26, 1991
A probation order for Gordon stipulates that he is to have no contact with Melissa. Over next few weeks, she initiates contact upon several occasions. See letter Gordon wrote shortly before his death (PDF).
April 20, 1991
Melissa and Gordon Stewart relocate to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
April 27, 1991
Melissa runs over and kills her husband on a deserted road. Three hours later she reports his death. Non-prescribed benzodiazepine (valium and restoril) is found in his system. It's judged to be enough to kill him. She claims he sexually assaulted her. Medical tests do not confirm any rape.
Upon his death, Melissa applies for pension benefits from the Department of National Defense and Canada Pension.
Melissa and Russell Shephard's divorce is finalized.
May 26, 1992
Melissa is convicted of manslaughter in the death of her husband Gordon Stewart, 44, in Halifax.
August 20, 1992
Melissa is sentenced to 6 years in jail.
She forms a support group for women at the Prison for Women in Kingston, Ontario.
The National Film Board documentary "When Women Kill" airs. Melissa is featured as one of the prime characters.
Melissa is released from prison with full parole.
Melissa sets up a toll free counseling line for women having trouble in jail. It's called "Project Another Chance".
Robert Friedrich, a retired engineer living in Florida, grieves the death of his wife of 53 years.
Melissa sees Robert Friedrich at a Christian Retreat and later sends him a letter saying "God wants us to be married." The correspondence includes her picture.
Friedrich responds to her letter. Melissa returns to Florida to visit Robert Friedrich. Three days after she arrives, they are engaged.
June 23, 2000
Melissa and Robert marry in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia at the interfaith Wedding Chapel.
March 22, 2001
The Friedrich family notices that Robert's health is faltering, his speech is slurred, and he's often in the hospital.
May 28, 2001
Melissa obtains two prescriptions for lorazepam. Police records show that upon six occasions, Melissa got drugs from one doctor and then within thirty days of the first prescription received another from a different doctor.
One of Robert's sons, Bob Friedrich, calls the Elder Abuse Line and launches a complaint against Melissa's care of his father.
Robert Friedrich rewrites his will making Melissa the sole beneficiary.
December 16, 2002
Less than two years after they marry, Robert Friedrich dies. The apparent cause is cardiac arrest. Friedrich's death certificate is confirmed by a doctor over the telephone. The doctor did not examine the body.
Melissa continues to receive Robert Friedrich's social security cheques.
December 20, 2002
The cremation certificate is issued and no autopsy or toxicology reports are done.
Melissa returns to PEI, but over the next year she will travel back and forth between Canada and the U.S.
In Florida, the Manatee County Sheriff investigates Melissa for six counts of doctor shopping (prescription fraud) from March 1, 2001 to December 1, 2002.
Human Resource Development Canada launches an investigation of Melissa, specifically crimes relating to the Old Age Security Act believed to have occurred between 2000-2003.
Melissa initiates internet contact with as many as twenty men from across the United States and Canada.
October 20, 2004
Dennis Friedrich receives a letter from State's Attorney Office in Florida. The investigation is completed concerning the crime of doctor shopping. The State Attorney chooses not to proceed because they feel they will be unable to prove the charges against Melissa.
RCMP visit Melissa at her home in PEI to ask her questions about their investigation into Old Age Security fraud.
Early November 2004
As RCMP prepare to lay charges, Melissa drives to Florida to meet Alex Strategos, a divorced 73-year-old diabetic, who she had been corresponding with on AmericanSinglesDating.com.
November 5, 2004
Melissa has dinner with Alex Strategos in Pinellas Park, Florida and moves into his house the same night. Later that night Alex is taken to hospital after falling down and hitting his head.
Over a two-month period, Alex is hospitalized eight times.
December 28, 2004
Alex signs over power of attorney to Melissa, while he is in the hospital.
Alex Strategos' son Dean sees unprescribed drugs (benzodiazepine) in his father's medical report and blood tests. He also discovers around $18,000 missing from his father's bank account.
January 6, 2005
Pinellas Park Police arrest Melissa and charge her with exploitation of the elderly, theft and forgery. Police say she coerced Strategos to give her power of attorney and then she siphoned off his money into her own bank account.
February 1, 2005
Nova Scotia RCMP issue a warrant for Melissa's arrest. She's charged with defrauding the government of Canada of $30,348.54 over a four year period. The fraud offences allegedly took place between July 1997 and October 2003.
March 14, 2005
Scheduled date of Melissa's pre-trial.
March 14, 2005
Melissa Friedrich pleads guilty to seven charges related to the Strategos case, including three counts of grand theft from a person 65 years or older, two counts of forgery and two counts of using a forged document. As part of a plea agreement, she's sentenced to five years in jail.
April 2, 2009
The Crown Attorney's office in Halifax drops Old Age Security fraud charges against Melissa, stating that they have not received enough evidence to proceed.
April 4, 2009
Melissa is released from prison in Florida and deported to Canada. She currently lives on her own in a seniors' apartment building in Nova Scotia and has so far made good on a promise to stay out of trouble.
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