Tuesday 6 December 2016

A real-life Gone Girl? Notorious 80-year-old killer arrested again for breaching release terms

Meadhbh McGrath

Published 18/04/2016 | 12:14

Melissa Ann Shepard. Photo: Halifax Regional Police
Melissa Ann Shepard. Photo: Halifax Regional Police
Melissa Shepard in 1994. Photo: Prisontv.net/YouTube

A Canadian woman dubbed the ‘Black Widow’ following a series of violent convictions involving her romantic partners has been charged with breaking the terms of her release.

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Melissa Ann Shepard (80) was released from jail in March after serving close to three years for drugging her husband.

After returning from their honeymoon, Fred Weeks (75) became ill, and when a fall left him hospitalised, it was found that Shepard had spiked his coffee with tranquilisers.

Police believed her to be at high risk of re-offending and imposed a set of 20 conditions, including not going online, abiding by a curfew and providing an up-to-date photo of herself to local officers.

She must also inform police before entering a new relationship so they can alert prospective boyfriends of her criminal past.

On her release last month, police issued a public notice, warning elderly men looking for love to beware of Shepard and flagging the internet as a possible risk.

However, last week she was found using the internet on a computer at a public library in Nova Scotia, a violation of her court conditions.

Shepard has a long history with the law, earning her the nickname ‘Black Widow’.

Melissa Shepard in 1994. Photo: Prisontv.net/YouTube
Melissa Shepard in 1994. Photo: Prisontv.net/YouTube

She had a string of convictions in the 1970s and 80s for fraud and impersonation, but her offences grew more serious later in life.

After marrying widower Gordon Stewart in 1991, Shepard dosed him with a near-lethal amount of benzodiazepine and ran him over twice in her car.

She waited several hours before reporting the death, and was eventually convicted of manslaughter in 1992, for which she served two years.

Her third husband, Robert Friedrich, died of cardiac arrest in 2002 shortly after they were married, but no charges were brought in connection with his death.

Mr Friedrich’s family noticed he had been having mysterious fainting spells and slurred speech, and filed a criminal complaint against her.

His sons said she had left a threatening voicemail telling them they were being removed from their father’s will.

They also claim she stole money from Mr Friedrich and overdosed his prescription medication. No one was charged.

In 2005, she was sentenced to five years in prison on a slew of charges including stealing $20,000 from a man she met online, Alex Strategos (now 84).

Mr Strategos also believes she had been adding the sedative lorazepam to his ice-cream, after testing positive for the powerful tranquilliser on one of his frequent hospital visits.

Shepard met her fourth husband, Fred Weeks, in a quiet retirement community in Nova Scotia.

The two began a romance after she knocked on his door and told him she was lonely, according to court documents cited by the BBC.

During their honeymoon, he started to feel ill. When he fell out of bed and was hospitalised, doctors discovered a heavy dose of tranquilisers in his blood.

Mr Weeks survived, and Shepard was charged with attempted murder.

A lack of evidence meant the charges were downgraded to administering a noxious substance and failing to provide the necessities of life.

Following the violation of her release terms last week, Shepard has been charged with three breaches of her probation. She will appear in court on May 24 to answer the charges.

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