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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Melissa Ann Shepard

A Canadian serial killer, Melissa Ann Shepard, was just released from prison this past Wednesday. Evidently she's served her sentence, and is free only on the condition that she not go on the internet and not have access to "medicine" (read: tranquilizers). It's not right to keep someone in prison beyond their term; but letting a serial killer loose is never a good idea.

According to the Daily Mail article:

Between 1977 and 1990 Shepard was convicted of more than 30 instances of fraud, but she didn't start earning her nickname until 1992.

That's when she drugged her second husband, Gordon Stewart, and ran him over twice with a car.

She claimed in her defense that he was trying to rape her and was convicted of manslaughter and imprisoned for six years, although she was released after only two.

In a video interview from 1995 she described herself as a 'battered wife' and claimed that her husband had done jail time for beating her up, but that this was not admitted as evidence in her court trial.

In 2001, at the age of 65, she married her third husband, Robert Friedrich, 83, whom she had met on a Christian dating site. She moved to Florida to be with him.

He died 14 months later, leaving her thousands of dollars. His children claimed that she had poisoned him and won back $15,000 from her in a civil trial, but she was never charged with any crime.

Three years later Alex Strategos, then 73, started dating Shepard after meeting her online. 'At first, I thought she seemed very nice,' Strategos told the BBC, describing her as a 'very classy lady.'

Shepard moved down to his home in Florida to be with him, and over the one month that she stayed there he found himself hospitalized multiple times.

His son suspected foul play after doctors found the tranquilizer benzodiazepine in his blood and notified the police. Strategos now says he believes she was dosing the ice cream that she gave him most nights.

Police couldn't connect Shepard to the drug, but around $18,000 was found missing from Strategos's bank account and she ultimately found herself sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to seven charges including forgery and theft.

Shepard was deported and moved to Nova Scotia where, in 2013, she knocked on the door of her neighbor, 75-year-old Fred Weeks, and told him she was lonely and she'd heard he was lonely too.

Weeks, who had lost his wife 18 months before, quickly 'married' Shepard in an unofficial ceremony and the two headed off to Newfoundland for their honeymoon,

However, Shepard had started spiking Weeks with heavy doses of sedatives, and he found himself unable to drive properly.

'She’s too smooth of an actor, Weeks told The Globe and Mail. 'She kept me in the dark for a long time, telling me her stories. Everything was a story. Everything was a lie that she told me.'

The next day he was restricted to a wheelchair, could not put his shoes on and had forgotten where his car keys were, but it wasn't until he was hospitalized after falling that drugs were found in his blood and police became involved.

Shepard was initially charged with attempted murder, but was ultimately convicted on the lesser charge of 'administering a noxious substance,' netting her two years, nine months and ten days in prison. She was denied early parole due to risk of committing another crime.

And now she has been released, despite police saying that she is 'a high risk to reoffend.'

'I don't think she should be released,' Alex Strategos told the BBC. 'I don't know what the judge had in his mind.

'What she was, she still is - she's the Black Widow. Some guys better watch out, that's all I can say.'

Like most female serial killers, Shepard killed not for sexual gratification, but for financial gain.

The most amusing part of the story -- in a gallows humor sort of way -- is not mentioned by the Daily Mail, but is described in Shepard's Wikipedia entry:

Following her release [in 1995], she toured the country, giving speeches on battered woman syndrome and killing in self defense. She received a government grant to help others. During her tenure as a speaker, she sued journalist Barb McKenna of The Guardian for writing an article in which she doubted Friedrich's claims.

(Sisterhood is powerful!)

There's something quintessentially sociopathic about a serial killer who tours the country posing as a battered woman, basking in others' sympathy for her, and accepts a government grant for pretending to have the noble motivation of wanting to educate others about the scourge of violent husbands.

There's also something quintessentially sociopathic about suing a journalist who tells the truth.

If someone has been convicted of fraud 30 times, that's really all you need to know: she is a sociopath. In fact, sociopaths are frauds, period. And once you know that, everything else falls into place. Shepard undoubtedly told all of the men she was involved with that she loved them with the same ease with which she lied about everything else.

What struck me about Shepard's picture is that she looks as if she's had a couple of drinks. But it's doubtful she had; the picture looks as if it was taken in prison. The slightly inebriated look reflects a relaxed, uninhibited state that is the sociopath's normal way of being.

Of course, I probably wouldn't have noticed that if I hadn't known who she was. My danger radar generally just switches off when I see an old lady; but sociopaths come in all shapes, sizes, genders, races, and ages.

Note also the thin lips, which I keep seeing on Caucasian serial killers. Some of the other pictures in the Daily Mail article show fuller lips, which may be a function of her age, but is more likely a function of her lipstick:

Shepard has evidently changed her appearance so many times that she must now inform the police if she does so again:

It would be near impossible to recognize the woman in the above photo from the previous one. Note the smile which doesn't quite extend to her eyes; her eyes look as if she is sizing you up.

Authorities really ought to charge Shepard with murder in the case of her second husband, Robert Friedrich.

In the meantime, it's doubtful that at age 80, with law enforcement keeping a close watch on her, Shepard will have the opportunity to do the kind of damage she has in the past. But it won't be from lack of trying.


Anonymous said...

Let's hope that law enforcement keeps a very close eye on this sociopathic woman, monitoring her 24/7 (for the good of society).

- Susan

Quartermain said...

IMHO if convicted & found to be a sociopath, they should be confined to an asylum of the criminally insane and never released for the safety of the larger society.

If the crime merits it, be executed.

John Craig said...

Allan --
In an idle world, absolutely. The only problem is, the power to define people as sociopaths would inevitably be abused. But, theoretically, I agree with you completely.

Alter Ego said...

Another sociopath alert:

John Craig said...

Alter Ego --
He certainly sounds sleazy, though I'm not quite sure if multiple affairs and firing a guy as retaliation is quite enough to be sure he's a sociopath.

Samuel Nock said...

What on earth is the judge thinking? Shows incredibly bad judgment (no pun intended).

The women's physical transformation over the years is bizarre. The three images look like three totally different people.

John Craig said...

Samuel --
It had to have been that her sentence was up, so they had to let her go.

Yes, at least one of those younger iterations had to be a purposeful disguise. That's another thing sociopaths do, they're often masters of self-reinvention.

Alter Ego said...

Fair enough, though I strongly suspect he is. This story adds more context:

Anonymous said...

My mother was, very probably, a sociopath. She,like most sociopaths, never (so far as I know) ever killed anyone, but she ruined the lives of everyone in her family and several of her co-workers in a 35 year corporate career.

Of her three children, I am the only one without a felony record, and admittedly that is because I just never got caught more than once. My father finally divorced her at 58, but he was a wreck and died four years later. Her own mother refused to see her for the last fifteen years of her life, and had specific instructions that she was not allowed at the funeral in her will.

In a concocted "sexual harassment" case in the early nineties, Mother got a large six figure settlement from the company. Later, her former boss said that it was the best money the company ever paid because it was the only way to get rid of her. She had had several good workers fired over the years by skillfully implicating them in her own embezzlements, diversions of business and corporate espionage.

She also had engaged in sexual relations with several of her company's key personnel on a quid pro quo basis. The full extent of her destructive, deviant behavior will probably never be known.

But the most confusing part of the entire story, for most people, is that people outside her family and co-workers all thought she was the sweetest, kindest, most wonderful woman they had ever known. Even in her final few months, in assisted care, she managed to have her caretakers think she was an exceptionally wonderful old lady.

Looking back, the company should have figured where such smoke erupted time after time there had to be a smoldering fire and separated her from their employment. And my father should have dumped her twenty years before he did. But none of them had ever heard of sociopathy or if they had associated it soley with murderers and the like. The problem is that even though she never killed anyone, she did so much damage to so many people that a simple murderer could hardly have been worse.

John Craig said...

Alter Ego --
Bradley could well be, but I haven't seen the destructiveness and dishonesty (he boasted about his conquests, which is distasteful and indiscreet, but not dishonest) and simultaneous essential con artistry and emotional falseness you usually see from sociopaths from the snapshot provided in those articles. I'm not arguing he's NOT one, merely that I'm not convinced yet he is.

The anonymous commenter of 1:05AM presents the kind of complete picture which offers so many of the elements of sociopathy that it leaves no doubt.

John Craig said...

Anon --
There's no question your mother was a sociopath. As you say, most sociopaths never kill anyone, though they are, psychologically speaking, really not that different from serial killers, in that they put the value of other peoples' lives at zero. A lot of sociopaths go into business and leave a trail of destruction in their wake which only becomes apparent to coworkers after its pattern becomes too obvious to ignore.

False rape charges and false sexual harassment charges, like false hate hoax crimes, DO occur, and when they do, they're almost always concocted by sociopaths, as those are the only kind of people who would lie so blithely in order to ruin others' lives. And screwing your way up the company ladder -- which is what it sounds like you're saying your mother did -- is another time tested sociopathic technique for advancement.

The fact that she was able to convince people who did not know her well that she was an incredibly nice, sweet woman is actually not out of character at all. That's another sociopathic specialty: making a wonderful first impression. Sociopaths are forever putting on false emotional fronts, and are consummate actors. Convincing people that you're something you're not is another sociopathic hallmark.

You also described the way sociopaths get away with their shenanigans perfectly: because others are unfamiliar with sociopathy, so don't recognize the behavior for what it is. If all those other people had been wise to her types of tricks, she would never have gotten away with them.

Shaun F said...

John - Lived in Canada all my life, never heard this story, and read the papers today! Thanks.

John Craig said...

Thank you Shaun, I hadn't heard of it until a few days ago right after she was released myself.

Anonymous said...

John you should write an article on female sociopaths as a category, how it presents in them, etc. I think there's this myth flying around that most are male, and I know your experience belies this.

John Craig said...

Anon --
Actually, most of the literature on sociopathy states that it's more common among males than females. The figure most commonly cited in some of the textbooks from 15 or 20 years ago was that 3% of the male population is sociopathic, but only 1% of the female population is. The explanation given was that males, due to their hormonal mix, are more aggressive and fearless, and thus by nature harder to socialize.

I'm not sure I buy that. If a young female has no close bond with an adult in the first couple years of her life, she is going to have that same lack of positive emotions that male sociopaths do. It's just that she'll express it in less overtly aggressive ways: she won't beat people up, physically bully them, shoot them, etc. But that doesn't mean these women aren't just as poisonous on the inside. Women can be just as dishonest, disloyal, and destructive as men; they just express it in other ways.

I understand why the textbooks said what they said, though. The ultimate sociopathic crime is murder (which doesn't mean that all murderers are sociopaths, though a murderer is much more likely to be one), and men commit roughly ten times as many murders as do women. So, male sociopaths are simple more visible. A female sociopath is more likely to go through life the way the one described in the comment above (3/25 at 1:05AM) did: spreading dissension, bringing false sexual harassment charges, getting others at her company fired, being a lousy mother and wife, etc. Nothing quite enough to necessarily land her on the front pages, but insidiously destructive in her own way.

But anyway, you have a good point. Female sociopaths are more common than thought by many.

Quartermain said...

According to this blog post, she got her psycho butt back in jail:

Melissa Ann Shepard (Canada’s ‘Black Widow’) back in the slammer; I wonder if it was the BUID that did her in?

I wonder if this means there may be hope for Canada?

John Craig said...

Allan --
Wow! Glad to hear she's back in jail where she belongs.

The Canadians do some things right.

Shaun F said...

John - Just an observation about her being back in jail. Often the parole conditions are purposely designed to created recidivism, so they dice are pretty loaded against her to begin with and for that matter all people in Canada released on parole.

John Craig said...

Shaun --
I'm sure what you say is true, but staying off the internet is a pretty clear request and one that would be easy to follow if you were inclined to.