An elderly woman who rose to infamy over the last two decades as the "Internet Black Widow"—a name given to her for her attempts to rob from, poison, and murder some of her past partners via identities she assumed online—is scheduled to be released from a Nova Scotia prison Friday. But not before the Crown will try and impose a rare set of conditions on her.
New Brunswick–born Melissa Ann Shepard, 80, was sentenced in 2013 to two years, nine months, and ten days in prison for attempting to murder her newlywed husband by spiking his coffee with an inordinate amount of tranquilizers. At the time of her original arrest, police found a stockpile of sedatives and alternate identity documents, which she procured over a number of years.
Now, the Crown is pushing for her release to be withheld until she agrees to a set of peace bond restrictions that she would need to follow while living as a citizen—some of which include not being allowed to go on the Internet, and not being allowed to change her identity or have relationships with men without notifying the police.
"We're opposed to her release unless there are conditions imposed on her release," Crown prosecutor James Giacomantonio told the National Post, noting that the push for conditional release is a rarity but is a necessary precaution as Shepard had already been denied parole by the National Parole Board.
"It's based on her record and her past… Based on the evidence we have, she still poses a risk."
Shepard's wrongdoings started long before the crime she's now serving a sentence for. In 1992, she was convicted of the manslaughter of Gordon Stewart, her second husband, whom she ran over with a car. (Twice.)
In 2005, Shepard was sentenced to five years in prison on seven counts of theft and forged documents—including grand theft—from a man in Florida she met online. According to the National Post, her history of lying continued in prison, where she routinely was found to be fabricating events to correctional staff.
Fred Weeks, the man who Shepard tried to kill in 2012 via tranquilizer overdose, was a neighbor of hers in a retirement community. The two both described themselves as lonely, and they eventually performed a faux-marriage ceremony in Weeks's living room.
It was later, on a honeymoon trip to Newfoundland, that Shepard drugged Weeks's coffee. When they checked into a bed and breakfast later that day, he fell out of bed and was hospitalized but survived. In his testimony at the trial, Weeks described being unable to coherently distinguish between simple tasks, such as driving and reversing in a car.
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