Trial for 'Internet Black Widow' set for June
Melissa Shephard charged with attempted murder, administering a noxious thing
A 77-year-old woman nicknamed the "Internet Black Widow" for her ability to persuade grieving widowers to marry her will go to trial in June in Sydney, N.S.
Melissa Shephard was charged in October with attempted murder and administering a noxious thing — listed in court documents as the tranquillizer benzodiazepine — after her newest husband fell ill at a bed and breakfast in Cape Breton in late September.
They had been married just a few days earlier.
Shephard made a brief appearance in a Sydney courtroom on Monday, where a trial date in 2014 was suggested.
Justice Simon MacDonald objected and said that was too long to keep someone in custody without a conviction, so a new trial date was set for June 10, 2013. Twelve days have been set aside for the case.
Dates in April and May have been set aside for two matters to be settled before the trial: one is the admissibility of a statement and the other in an unspecified Charter of Rights and Freedoms issue.
Shephard, who has waived her right to a bail hearing and a preliminary hearing, has been remanded into custody until her next court appearance.
"At the end of the day, she is in custody and it's up to the court to find the earliest dates possible," said Diane McGrath, the Crown attorney.
Marriage to Fred Weeks not registered
Shephard, who has gone by several last names, was charged under the surname Weeks because she had married Fred Weeks days before her latest arrest.
In November, the Crown changed the name on her charge information to Melissa Shephard because her marriage to Weeks had not been registered with Nova Scotia's Vital Statistics division.
The woman best known as Melissa Friedrich was convicted of manslaughter in 1991 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 his death, but his family believes the woman who is now known as Melissa Shephard was involved in both his illness and the sudden disappearance of his money.
In 2005, Shephard 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.