All Fred Weeks wanted was to live a quiet life, and perhaps have a little company to share it with. That’s what the 76-year-old from Stellarton, N.S., was hoping for when he met Melissa Ann Shepard.
But it didn’t turn out that way. The 78-year-old Shepard was really a killer, a woman known as the Internet Black Widow, and Weeks would be lucky to escape with his life.
They met a year and a half ago, when Shepard moved into the housing complex where Weeks lived and asked for help with some boxes. Weeks had been recently widowed after 54 years of marriage, and he was, by his own admission, lonely. Not long after she moved in, Shepard came knocking at his back door.
“She just wanted to know if I was lonesome the same as she was,“ Weeks recalled in an exclusive interview with CBC News.
It began a whirlwind relationship.
“Yeah, she was very nice to talk to,” said Weeks. “She had a little religion in there, she was talking like she was always religious. That was the first lie,“ he laughed.
But what happened next was no laughing matter. Weeks didn’t know it, but Shepard was lying about many things.
She has a string of criminal convictions dating back over 40 years. Shepard did time in Nova Scotia for manslaughter after admitting to drugging and running over one husband twice with a car. Working under a half dozen different aliases, she became known as the Internet Black Widow.
In the U.S., she had a long history of drugging and stealing from men she had befriended on the internet, spending five years in a Florida state penitentiary on seven counts of theft.
But Weeks didn’t use the internet. No one in his family, or circle of friends, had ever heard of Melissa Ann Shepard. He also didn’t know she had started spiking his coffee with drugs.
Soon she was talking about getting married, while Weeks was growing more and more confused. On the day of their wedding, Sept. 25, 2012, he nearly drove his car off the road.
“I almost went over the bank because my foot wasn’t doing what my brain should be telling it to … stay on the road,” said Weeks.
Even so, they immediately left for what Weeks thought was a honeymoon in the U.S. But on the way Shepard claimed to have forgotten her passport, suggesting they go to Newfoundland instead. For Weeks it all became a blur.
“I can’t remember any of it,” said Weeks.
For example, Weeks doesn't remember having to be removed from the Newfoundland ferry in a wheelchair, lying in a near coma in a Cape Breton bed and breakfast. While Weeks lay on the floor upstairs, his new bride ate a leisurely breakfast, finally agreeing he should go to hospital.
Near-lethal dose of tranquilizers
In the hospital, doctors found near-lethal doses of tranquilizers in Weeks's system. Still, it was difficult for Weeks to fully grasp what was happening.
“When I was in the hospital I had no idea what I was there for. I couldn’t even think about it. You know, I couldn’t imagine," Weeks said. "All my kids were there saying, 'She was trying to kill you,' and it wasn’t sinking in at all. It took a long time to sink in.”
While he was in hospital, Shepard checked into another hotel. Police officers found a note pad with the words “Lawyer,” “power of attorney” and “will” written on it.
Shepard was charged with attempted murder. She admitted to drugging Weeks's coffee, and instead pleaded guilty to administering a noxious substance and failing to provide the necessities of life. In June, she was sentenced to two years and nine months in prison.
Weeks was surprised the attempted murder charge was dropped, but said the Crown told him it would be very difficult to get a conviction. But he has no doubt about what she was trying to do: “Just exactly what she did, “ he said, “she was trying to kill me … there’s no doubt in my mind.”
Weeks is still trying to regain his memory, and worries the damage from the drugging will be permanent. He also has a warning: Shepard could soon be released.
“I think she’s a wicked woman … she’s not safe with any man, and she will do it again. That’s my opinion.”