Internet Black Widow sentenced to 3½ years in jail
Woman, 78, called cold and calculating by Crown, pleaded guilty to lesser charge after husband fell ill
The 78-year-old woman nicknamed the Internet Black Widow for her ability to persuade grieving widowers to marry her was sentenced to 3½ years less time served for administering a noxious thing and failing to provide the necessaries of life for then husband Fred Weeks.
Melissa Ann Shepard had been charged with attempted murder and administering a noxious thing — listed in court documents as benzodiazepine, a class of drugs used to treat anxiety and insomnia — after the 75-year-old Weeks fell ill at a bed and breakfast in Cape Breton in late September.
She is also known as Melissa Friedrich, but was charged under the last name Weeks.
The couple had been married just a few days before he fell ill. Their union was later ruled invalid by the province's Vital Statistics division after it said false information was provided on the marriage certificate.
During sentencing, Shepard sat still, with her hands folded and looking straight ahead, reported the CBC’s Stephen Puddicombe.
The Crown had argued Shepard was a cold, calculating woman who lied about her husband's medical history to cover up what she had done.
The defence argued Shepard's medical condition should be considered, but the Crown said that was something she ignored with her victim.
The Crown argued her age shouldn’t factor into the verdict since it helped fuel her crimes. The Crown said if she was younger warning bells would have sounded.
"People who have contact with this lady should be careful," said Chief Justice Joseph Kennedy.
"How do you deter Melissa Ann Shepard? Let's be candid — this will not be a long-term factor."
Weeks, a thin, gray-haired man, sat several rows back on the other side of the court watching. There was no victim impact statement.
The woman has a long history with the law.
In 1991, she was convicted of manslaughter and served two years of a six-year jail term after killing her husband, Gordon Stewart, of P.E.I., on a deserted road near Halifax. Stewart was heavily drugged when she ran him over twice with a car.
Shortly after she was released from jail, 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, she 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.