Nova Scotia

Internet Black Widow to fight post-prison restrictions

Melissa Ann Shepard, 80, was released from prison last month after serving her sentence for drugging her husband. The Crown fears she will reoffend and is seeking a two-year peace bond.

Melissa Ann Shepard to battle strict conditions imposed by the Crown last month

Melissa Ann Shepard, 80, was sentenced in June 2013 for spiking her newlywed husband's coffee with tranquillizers. (CBC)

Melissa Ann Shepard, the woman dubbed the Internet Black Widow, will have to continue to abide by strict conditions set by the Crown until the fall, when she will return to court to battle against the restrictions.

Shepard, 80, was released from prison last month after serving her full sentence for administering a noxious substance and failing to provide the necessaries of life for Fred Weeks, who was her newlywed husband.

Weeks fell ill at a bed and breakfast in Cape Breton in September 2012. The couple had been married just a few days before he fell ill.
Halifax Regional Police circulated this photo of Melissa Ann Shepard when they warned residents that the woman known as the Internet Black Widow had been released from prison and would be living in the area. (Halifax Regional Police)

Last month, Shepard agreed to abide by some conditions to her freedom on a temporary basis.

But at a brief court appearance in Dartmouth, N.S., on Monday, Shepard's lawyer, Mark Knox, said his client will not agree to the two-year peace bond the Crown is seeking.

As a result, a full hearing on the restrictions being sought over the longer term will be held on Oct. 18.

"This kind of a hearing is a little bit more wide open than your regular trial hearing, more like a bail hearing," Crown prosecutor James Giacomantonio said outside court.

"We can lead psychiatric information, we can lead her prison records, we can lead hearsay if we have to."  

22 conditions including curfew

Both police and the Parole Board of Canada have assessed Shepard as a high risk to reoffend, so the Crown applied under a section of the Criminal Code to impose special conditions on her freedom.

There are 22 conditions in all, including that Shepard abide by a curfew, provide an up-to-date photo of herself to police and that she not possess any drugs for which she doesn't have a prescription. The conditions also require Shepard to inform police of any romantic involvements so officers can tell prospective boyfriends of her criminal past.

"It's what we can do right now," Giacomantonio said.

"There's nothing more we can do to someone who hasn't committed a criminal offence." 

Criminal past

Shepard has a long history with the law. In 1991, she was convicted of manslaughter and served two years of a six-year prison term after killing her husband Gordon Stewart on a deserted road near Halifax.

Stewart, from P.E.I., was heavily drugged when she ran over him twice with a car.

Shortly after she was released from prison, she travelled to Florida and met Robert Friedrich at a Christian retreat.

They married in Nova Scotia in 2000. A year later, Friedrich's family noticed his health was faltering. He had mysterious fainting spells and slurred speech and was in and out of hospitals.

Friedrich's family also alleged his money had started to disappear.

Friedrich died in 2002 of cardiac arrest. No one was charged.

In 2005, Shepard was sentenced to five years in prison for a slew of charges stemming from a relationship she had with another Florida man she met online.

She pleaded guilty to seven charges 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.

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