By Dave Andrusko
A former nurse, described by prosecutors as obsessed with hanging and suicide, was sentenced today to less than a year for aiding the suicides of Canadian Nadia Kajouji, 18, and Mark Drybrough, 32.
Convicted in March by Rice County District Judge Thomas Neuville, William Melchert-Dinkel will spend 320 days in jail and then over the next 10 years, “serve two-day spells in jail on the anniversaries of his victims’ deaths,” the Associated Press reported.
The sentence was a far cry from what Melchert-Dinkel could have received–15 years on each count. As it is, Neuville sentenced Melchert-Dinkel to 15 years of probation (which includes the jail time). He will serve a six-and-a-half year prison sentence, if Melchert-Dinkel violates any terms of his probation.
Press accounts say that Judge Neuville “reviewed nearly 1,000 pages and 10 CDs of evidence, including police reports, interviews, transcripts and copies of e-mails.”
In February, during oral arguments, his attorney Terry Watkins admitted Melchert-Dinkel’s behavior was “sick” and “abhorrent” but that it wasn’t a crime, according to the AP. Watkins “said Drybrough [who hung himself in 2005] had been ill for years and went online seeking drugs to overdose, while Kajouji [his second victim] was going through a rough time in her life, had a miscarriage after drinking heavily and was depressed. Watkins said they were both intelligent people who wouldn’t be swayed by his client’s online ‘babbling.’” He also argued on free-speech grounds, which the judge dismissed.
“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,” the Associated Press’ Amy Forliti reported.
In the criminal complaint filed April 2010, Melchert-Dinkel “admitted to participating in online chats with at least 15-20 people about suicide and entering into fake suicide pacts with about 10 people, five of whom he believed killed themselves,” the Waseca County News reported.
As we discussed back in March when Melchert-Dinkel was convicted, Rice County Attorney Paul Beaumaster said, “He targeted individuals he knew he could have an influence on. Were they predisposed? Absolutely!”
But Beaumaster added, “These individuals were fragile people. It was the defendant who was suggesting a long-term solution to a short-term problem.”
Melchert-Dinkel “entered into a suicide pact with Kajouji and tried to get her to hang herself while he watched via webcam,” the CBC reported. “She instead jumped into the freezing Rideau River” in 2008.
Attorney Watkins said they will appeal.