'Black Widow' pleads guilty to 2 charges in N.S. court
Published Monday, June 10, 2013 6:34AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, June 10, 2013 6:52PM EDT
The so-called “Black Widow” has pleaded guilty to tranquilizing her husband by putting drugs into his coffee and failing to provide the necessities of life, after he fell ill at a bed and breakfast in Cape Breton last fall.
Melissa Ann Shepard, 78, entered the pleas in Nova Scotia Supreme Court Monday morning, just as her judge-only trial was scheduled to begin.
Shepard was charged with attempted murder and administering a noxious thing early last October after a man she had married just days before, 75-year-old Fred Weeks, became ill as they travelled to Newfoundland for their honeymoon. On Monday, the attempted murder charge was dropped.
An agreed statement of facts read out in court said Shepard slipped Weeks the tranquilizers Lorazepam and Temazepam during the couple’s trip.
“She was administering drugs to him without his knowledge or consent,” said Crown prosecutor Gerald MacDonald. “It was being done through the drinks -- coffee.”
CTV’s Atlantic Bureau Chief Todd Battis reported from the courthouse that when Weeks “fell ill, she didn’t do anything to help him out.”
A police search of Shepard’s New Glasgow home turned up bottles with seven types of prescription drugs, as well as a number of plastic bags with unidentified pills. Police also found a note discussing how to secure power of attorney over Weeks’s finances.
Shepard’s marriage to Weeks was later declared invalid by the province of Nova Scotia because false information was provided on the marriage certificate.
Residents of the rental complex where the couple first met were shocked by the court case.
“I’m stunned,” said neighbour Helen Fraser. “I don’t know what to make of it. I really don’t.”
Another neighbour, Betty Stephen, said there were no signs anything was wrong in the couple’s relationship.
“They were all happy here and friendly living here,” she told CTV Atlantic. “And all of a sudden, all this happened.”
Shepard has been married numerous times and has gone by several last names, earning her “Black Widow” nickname because of past criminal convictions. She was convicted of manslaughter in the 1991 death of her then-husband Gordon Stewart, whom she drugged and then ran over twice with her car. She served two years of her six-year sentence.
She later spent time in a U.S. prison after she was convicted of stealing about $20,000 from Alexander Strategos, a Florida man she met on the Internet.
After serving her sentence, Shepard returned to Canada and moved to a Nova Scotia seniors’ complex, where she met Weeks. The two married just weeks after they met.
In a recent interview, Weeks told The Canadian Press that although he continues to suffer from frequent bouts of memory loss, he holds no ill will toward Shepard.
"People want her hung up from a tree and cut to pieces," he said. "I'm just very glad to get it over with and have it come to an end. I'm not worried about what she gets. Whatever she gets is what the judge will give her and that's what she deserves."
He also said he has “no bitter feelings” about his ordeal.
“A lot of people think I’m right bitter because I almost died,” he said. “Well, almost doesn’t count. Not to me anyway.”