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.