Drugged husband survives curse of the 'Black Widow'
A Canadian woman who was responsible for the deaths of two previous husbands is jailed for poisoning her latest spouse
Tim Walker is The Independent’s Los Angeles correspondent, covering entertainment and other concerns from the West Coast of the US. He was previously a features writer and the editor of the paper’s diary column. His first novel, Completion, was published in 2014.
Sunday 16 June 2013
Petite, blonde and bespectacled, 78-year-old Melissa Ann Shepard may have seemed an unlikely femme fatale, but that was precisely what made her so dangerous. This week, Shepard was sentenced to three and a half years in prison for drugging her elderly husband on their honeymoon: the latest in a string of such incidents that has earned her the title of Canada's "Black Widow".
In September 2012, as the newlyweds travelled by ferry from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland, 76-year-old Fred Weeks fell ill after drinking coffee laced with tranquillisers. What he didn't know was that his new wife had made a habit of outliving her husbands. In 1992, she was convicted of manslaughter for drugging her then-husband, Gordon Stewart, and running him over – twice – near Halifax. She served two years of a six-year sentence.
Following her release, Shepard moved south to Florida, where she met her third husband, Robert Friedrich, at a Christian retreat. They married in 2000, but Friedrich died two years later of a heart attack, having suffered a series of fainting spells that were never explained.
In 2005, Shepard was sentenced to five years in prison for stealing $20,000 from her boyfriend Alex Strategos, now 81. Strategos was hospitalised a number of times during their brief relationship; a blood test at the time of the trial showed he had traces of the sedative benzodiazepine in his system.
Last August, free once more, Shepard reportedly moved into the same retirement complex as Mr Weeks in the small Nova Scotia town of New Glasgow. After a whirlwind romance, the two were married on 25 September 2012 – though the marriage would later be declared invalid, after false information was found on the marriage certificate.
The day after the wedding, the couple set off across the Cabot Strait from Cape Breton. By the time they reached Channel-Port-aux-Basques, Newfoundland, Mr Weeks was unable to walk. The couple returned to Nova Scotia to stay in a B&B, where he fell out of bed and was rushed to hospital. Shepard then lied to medical staff, claiming her new husband had prostate problems, dementia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder. She also insisted that Mr Weeks – a father of six – had no other family.
When Shepard was finally arrested and charged in October, police found a handful of prescription medications among her belongings. They also seized notes written on hotel stationery with the words "lawyer", "power of attorney" and "will".
Shepard's lawyer, Allan Nicholson, however, claimed she had not intended to harm her husband, but had miscalculated the dosage of tranquillisers. As for the notes, Mr Nicholson said: "She was an ex-secretary. She was looking after business."
An attempted murder charge was dropped because the prosecution could not prove Shepard's intent to kill. Instead, she pleaded guilty on Monday to administering a noxious substance, and failing to provide the necessities of life. Her sentence will be reduced to two years and nine months to reflect time already served, but Judge Joseph Kennedy warned: "People who have contact with this lady should be careful. Do not allow yourself to be victimised."
Meanwhile, Mr Weeks told the Cape Breton Post that he still suffers lapses of memory – but, remarkably, harbours no ill will. "I got no bitter feelings or anything like that," he said. "A lot of people think I'm right bitter because I almost died. Well, almost doesn't count. Not to me, anyway."
- 1 Lord Sewel quits: Peer 'boasts of having sex with BBC presenter and seeing 13 mistresses'
- 2 Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta clashes with President Obama on LGBT equality: ‘Gay rights is really a non-issue’
- 3 Topshop pulls 'ridiculously skinny' mannequins after being shamed by customer on Facebook
- 4 Five-year-old boy forced classmate to simulate oral sex at primary school, claims mother
- 5 Black and ethnic minority people twice as likely to be hit by Tory cuts than white people, report finds
Mystery over deaths of 3,000 Napoleonic soldiers in mass grave has been solved
Boris Johnson apologises after giving his wife a 'backie' on his bike on the streets of London
Black and ethnic minority people twice as likely to be hit by Tory cuts than white people, report finds
Labour leadership: New poll shows party is now even 'less electable' than under Ed Miliband
Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, 71, still enjoys 'an early morning joint' for breakfast
The 9 charts that show the 'left-wing' policies of Jeremy Corbyn the public actually agrees with
Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn says 'we can learn a great deal from Karl Marx'
The last thing Labour needs is a leader like Jeremy Corbyn who people want to vote for
What the Labour party could look like under Jeremy Corbyn
I am the Jeremy Corbyn supporter that many will tell you doesn't exist
Public anger after French sunbather beaten up by gang for wearing a bikini in Reims park
£19000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning independent ...
£45000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Ambitious, entrepreneurial busi...
£20000 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Fitter is required to join a ...
£30000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They have a unique reputation f...