MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/AP) — A former Minnesota nurse convicted of aiding two suicides over the Internet was sentenced to 360 days in jail Wednesday.
William Melchert-Dinkel, 48, was convicted in March of two counts of aiding suicide in the deaths of an English man and a Canadian woman.
Melchert-Dinkel will serve 320 days consecutively. The other 40 days will be served over the next 10 years on the anniversaries of the deaths. Judge Thomas Neuville said Melchert-Dinkel will serve two days for each victim for the next 10 years.
The judge’s sentence was far less than the maximum 15 years Melchert-Dinkel could have gotten on each count.
If Melchert-Dinkel violates conditions of his probation, which includes on access to the Internet and undergoing therapy, he could serve up to six years in prison.
Those in the courtroom said it was a very emotional sentencing with the mother of one of the victim’s making an appeal for the harshest possible sentence.
Deborah Chevalier is the mother of 18-year-old Nadia Kajouji, who killed herself in 2008 after talking with Melchert-Dinkel online.
In court, Chevalier told a Rice County judge that she’ll never see her daughter become a lawyer, a wife or a mother. She said when Nadia died “the best parts of me died with her.”
“He didn’t get away with it like he thought he would and I think that’s fantastic and for that part of it I appreciate it and am very happy,” Chevalier said after the sentencing.
Chevalier also said she would have liked to see a longer sentence but is greatful that Minnesota was willing to prosecute the case.
Kajouji’s father, Mohamed Kajouji, said Melchert-Dinkel is a monster. He says his daughter was intelligent and just needed help.
Melchert-Dinkel was also ordered to pay Nadia’s family $30,000 in restitution.
Melchert-Dinkel’s lawyer said he’s definitely going to appeal. His lawyer maintains that what Melchert-Dinkel did isn’t legally wrong, though could be considered morally wrong and is protected under free speech.
“There is very clear case law, very clear decisions in regards to the first ammendment and freedom of speech and we’re going to have to see where the courts fall on this,” said Terry Watkins, Melchert-Dinkel’s lawyer.
Prosecutors say Melchert-Dinkel was obsessed with suicide and hanging and sought out potential victims online. They say he posed as a suicidal female nurse to win his victims’ trust, then entered false suicide pacts and offered detailed instructions on how people could take their own lives.
Court documents say Melchert-Dinkel, a former nurse from the southern Minnesota town of Faribault, told police he did it for the “thrill of the chase.” He acknowledged participating in online chats about suicide with up to 20 people and entering into fake suicide pacts with about 10 people, five of whom he believed killed themselves.
“I hope this case stands as a warning to other predators on the internet who advise, aides or encourages suicide that they will be held accountable,” said Rice County Attorney Paul Beaumaster.
Melchert-Dinkel declined a jury trial, leaving the judge to decide whether he was guilty. He was convicted in the death of Mark Drybrough, 32, of Coventry, England, who hanged himself in 2005; and in the death of Nadia Kajouji, 18, of Brampton, Ontario, who jumped into a frozen river in 2008.
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