The woman above may look like a sweet old lady, but she’s better known as the infamous ‘Internet Black Widow’ and has a history of manslaughter, fraud and theft.
On Friday the deadly Melissa Ann Shepard finished serving almost three years in jail for poisoning her last partner with sedatives which left him temporarily confined to a wheelchair on their ‘honeymoon’.
However her criminal record goes back to 1977 and includes convictions for fraud, poisoning and manslaughter. Shepard (who was born Russell and has taken the names Friedrich, Weeks and Stewart from various marriages) has a particularly nasty habit of romancing lonely, elderly men online before drugging and robbing them, The Daily Mail reports.
New post: "
Old age poisoner: Canada's silver-tongued 'Internet Black Widow,' 80, released from jail after latest… https://t.co/8Fm3j1fMH3
— Lee Levy (@thekingleelevy) March 19, 2016
In fact according to her prosecutor James Giacomantonio they believe that ‘she poses a risk going forward to the particular group of elderly males that she has preyed on in the past.’
This has meant that the Canadian police are being forced to use a ‘peace bond’ which will limit her access to drugs, stop her from using anything that would allow her to access the internet, and force her to declare all relationships she enters into in the future.
She must also let police photograph her if she changes her appearance, and allow them to explain her criminal history to any prospective partners, so they know what she’s capable of.
— Halifax_Police (@HfxRegPolice) March 18, 2016
Shepard has an extensive criminal record and between 1977 and 1990 she was convicted of more than 30 instances of fraud. However, she didn’t earn her nickname until 1992 when she drugged her second husband, Gordon Stewart, and ran him over twice with a car, killing him.
For her defence she claimed that he was trying to rape her but was convicted of manslaughter and imprisoned for six years, although she was released after only two, from here she went on to deceive more men.
In 2001, at the age of 65, she married, the 83 years-old Robert Friedrich, her third husband, whom she met on a Christian dating site and moved to Florida to live with him. He died only 14 months later, leaving her thousands of dollars. His children claimed that Shepard had poisoned him and they won back $15,000 from her in a civil trial, but she was never charged with any crime.
Three years later Alex Strategos, 73, started dating Shepard after meeting he met her online. Strategos told the BBC, that ‘at first, I thought she seemed very nice,’ and described her as a ‘very classy lady.’ Again Shepard moved down to his home in Florida to be with him, however over the one month that she stayed there he found himself hospitalised multiple times.
His son began to suspect that something was wrong and doctors found benzodiazepine, a tranquilizer, in his blood and notified the police. Strategos now claims that he thinks she was spiking his ice cream which she gave him most nights.
At the time around $18,000 dollars was found missing from his Strategos’s bank account and Shepard was sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to seven charges including forgery and theft, but police could not connect her to the drugs in his system.
Shepard was then deported back to Canada and moved to Nova Scotia where, in 2013, where she began to court, 75-year-old Fred Weeks, and told him she was lonely and she’d heard he was lonely too.
Weeks, whose wife had died 18 months earlier, quickly ‘married’ Shepard in an unofficial ceremony and the two headed off to Newfoundland for their honeymoon.
However, Shepard had started spiking Weeks with heavy doses of sedatives, and he found himself unable to drive properly. He soon found himself in a wheelchair, could not put his shoes on and had forgotten where his car keys were, but it wasn’t until he was hospitalised after falling that drugs were found in his blood and police became involved.
— Natasha Pace (@NatashaPace) March 15, 2016
Shepard was initially charged with attempted murder, but was ultimately convicted on the lesser charge of ‘administering a noxious substance,’ landing her two years, nine months and ten days in prison. She was denied early parole due to risk of committing another crime.
And now she has been released, despite police saying that she is ‘a high risk to reoffend.’
Alex Strategos told the BBC: “I don’t think she should be released… ‘I don’t know what the judge had in his mind. What she was, she still is – she’s the Black Widow.”
More of a concept than a journalist, Tom Percival was forged in the bowels of Salford University from which he emerged grasping a Masters in journalism.
Since then his rise has been described by himself as ‘meteoric’ rising to the esteemed rank of Social Editor at UNILAD as well as working at the BBC, Manchester Evening News, and ITV.
He credits his success to three core techniques, name repetition, personality mirroring, and never breaking off a handshake.