FARIBAULT, Minn. (AP) — A former nurse who helped persuade two people he met online to kill themselves was sentenced Wednesday to nearly a year in jail, a punishment tailored to force him to return to jail each year for a decade to spend the anniversaries of his victims’ deaths behind bars.
William Melchert-Dinkel was convicted of two counts of aiding suicide under a rarely used Minnesota law. Prosecutors said he posed online as a suicidal nurse and encouraged a Canadian woman and a British man to commit suicide.
Judge Thomas Neuville’s sentence was far less than the maximum 15 years Melchert-Dinkel could have gotten on each count. Judge Neuville sentenced Melchert-Dinkel to 15 years of probation, which includes the jail time. If Melchert-Dinkel violates any terms of his probation, he’ll be forced to serve a 6½-year prison sentence.
Judge Neuville compared Melchert-Dinkel’s conduct to stalking, describing it as calculated, intentional and fraudulent, but he also said that while Melchert-Dinkel’s conduct was directly related to the deaths, he wasn’t the sole reason the victims took their lives.
He was ordered to start serving his jail sentence June 1, but Mr. Watkins had promised to appeal the convictions on free-speech grounds. If that appeal is filed before June 1, Melchert-Dinkel would remain free as his appeal is pending.
The judge structured the sentence so that Melchert-Dinkel would serve an initial 320 days, then be freed. Over the next 10 years, he would have serve two-day spells in jail on the anniversaries of his victims’ deaths.
Prosecutors say Melchert-Dinkel was obsessed with hanging and suicide and sought out potential victims online. They say he posed as a suicidal female nurse to win his victims’ trust, then entered false suicide pacts and offered detailed instructions on how people could take their own lives.
Court documents say Melchert-Dinkel, a former nurse from the southern Minnesota town of Faribault, told police he did it for the “thrill of the chase.” He acknowledged participating in online chats about suicide with up to 20 people and entering into fake suicide pacts with about 10 people, five of whom he believed killed themselves.
Melchert-Dinkel declined a jury trial, leaving Judge Neuville to decide whether he was guilty. He was convicted in the death of Mark Drybrough, 32, of Coventry, England, who hanged himself in 2005, and in the death of Nadia Kajouji, 18, of Brampton, Ontario, who jumped into a frozen river in 2008.
'Your papers, please' must never be heard in America
Independent voices from the TWT Communities
A mother of three and a passionate conservative, Shirley Husar changes the game.
Political satirist and Christian apologist Bob Siegel discusses religion and politics.
Columns from Voices around the World talking about the events, people, politics and social issues that concern us wherever, and whoever, we are.
Benghazi: The anatomy of a scandal
Vietnam Memorial adds four names
Cinco de Mayo on the Mall