'Internet Black Widow' to be released on conditions
Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, March 15, 2016 10:30AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, March 15, 2016 6:16PM EDT
HALIFAX -- An elderly woman known as the Internet Black Widow has agreed she won't be romancing any men once she's out of prison unless police are first informed, but it's possible she'll fight this and other conditions of her release at a future court date.
Melissa Ann Shepard, now in her early 80s, is set for release from a federal women's jail in Truro, N.S., on Friday, after being denied parole and serving her full sentence.
In her latest conviction in June 2013, she was sentenced to two years, nine months and 10 days in jail for spiking her newlywed husband's coffee with tranquilizers.
Crown prosecutor James Giacomantonio said Tuesday that his office recently decided she was a strong candidate for a rare peace bond application that had to be authorized by the province's attorney general.
"We believe she's a significant risk to the public," he said after a court hearing.
He said Shepard hasn't yet agreed to that bond, and that matter was set over until an April 4 hearing.
But during Tuesday's appearance, Shepard -- who was rolled into the building in a wheelchair by sheriffs while she covered her face with her hands -- said in a soft voice that she will agree to abide by essentially the same conditions while awaiting that peace bond hearing.
The 22 conditions include the requirement she report her relationships, that she not use the Internet, that she stay at home at night, that she provide photos on demand, and that she inform police of any attempts to change her appearance.
Born in Burnt Church, N.B., Shepard is known as the "Black Widow" or the "Internet Black Widow" because she has prior convictions stemming from her past relationships with men.
She was convicted of manslaughter in 1992 in the death of her second husband, Gordon Stewart, who she drugged and ran over twice with a car.
In 2005, Shepard was also sentenced to five years in prison on seven counts of theft from a man in Florida who she had met online.
A recent parole board report that said Shepard has a tendency to fabricate and deny events to correctional staff, and is unable to link consequences to actions.
Those findings helped convince Giacomantonio to seek the longer term restrictions on her freedom.
"It's just important for us to keep an eye on high risk offenders like Ms. Shepard," he said after the brief hearing in Dartmouth provincial court.
"We believe she poses a risk going forward to the particular group of elderly males that she has preyed on in the past."
Defence lawyer Mark Knox declined comment, saying he wanted to consult with his client.
An agreed statement of facts on Shepard's last conviction said she had been Weeks's neighbour in a quiet retirement community in Nova Scotia, knocked on his door and told him she was lonely and she'd heard he was lonely too.
A civil union ceremony was performed in Weeks's living room, but the marriage was never certified by the province.
During a trip to Newfoundland after the ceremony, Shepard dissolved a cocktail of sedatives into her new partner's coffee.
It left Weeks' unable to distinguish between reverse and drive shifts in his car, and he couldn't start the vehicle when it was time to leave the boat.
The couple returned to North Sydney, N.S., and stayed at a bed and breakfast, where Weeks tumbled out of bed and was hospitalized, with tests showing he had tranquilizers in his blood.
Weeks recently told The Canadian Press he's concerned about Shepard's release.
"She's too smooth of an actor," said.