'Internet Black Widow' waives preliminary trial
Published Wednesday, November 21, 2012 1:53PM AST
Last Updated Wednesday, November 21, 2012 6:37PM AST
An elderly woman dubbed the ‘Internet Black Widow’ was back in Sydney provincial court today.
The 77-year-old is accused of trying to kill her 75-year-old partner with powerful tranquilizers.
Melissa Ann Shepherd appeared in court via videoconference from the Central Nova Scotia Correctional facility in Dartmouth.
She has elected to be tried by a Supreme Court judge and also waived her right to a preliminary hearing.
The latest developments in the case also include another change in the surname the accused, formerly known as Melissa Weeks.
When she checked into a Cape Breton inn on her supposed honeymoon in late September, Millie Shepherd had just assumed the surname of her new partner.
Even police believed her marriage to Fred Weeks was legitimate, and they used her new name, Melissa Weeks, to lay charges against her.
“To the best of our information at this point in time, that marriage was never registered. So her name remains as Shepherd,” says Crown attorney Diane McGrath.
Shepherd was the last name of the woman’s first husband and is one of several names she has adopted over the years.
Shepherd was once convicted of a number of crimes involving older men, including manslaughter in the death of a husband.
She is known internationally as the ‘Internet Black Widow’ after a number of incidents in Nova Scotia and Florida.
In 2005, when she was known as Melissa Friedrich, she was sentenced to five years in a Florida prison on seven counts of theft from a man in Florida she had met online.
Investigators in that case said she stole about US$20,000 from Alexander Strategos.
In 2001, she was convicted of manslaughter in the death of her husband, Gordon Stewart, who she had run over twice with a car in 1991 outside Halifax.
She served two years of a six-year sentence for that crime.
It is uncertain whether her criminal record will be part of her Supreme Court trial.
“Normally you can’t put a past record in, unless the person takes the stand,” says defence lawyer Allan Nicholson. “I know the Crown is leaning toward similar acts evidence. You might be able to get it in on that basis.”
The court has ordered her next court appearance, on Dec. 3, to be in person.
However, defence lawyer Allan Nicholson says his client suffers from age-related health problems and would have preferred not to make the seven-hour trip to Sydney in shackles.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Randy MacDonald and The Canadian Press