MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A former nurse from Minnesota who sought out depressed people online and was convicted of encouraging two to commit suicide has notified the court that he plans to appeal his conviction, his attorney said Wednesday.

An attorney for William Melchert-Dinkel, 48, of Faribault, filed a notice of appeal Tuesday with the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

Attorney Terry Watkins said he plans to argue that his client was exercising his right to free speech when he discussed suicide online. He said it’s possible he will raise other issues on appeal as well.

“Under the circumstances that existed … his speech was protected,” Watkins said.

Evidence presented in Rice County court shows Melchert-Dinkel was obsessed with suicide and addicted to hunting for depressed people in online suicide chat rooms. Prosecutors say that when he found them, he posed as a female nurse, feigned compassion and offered step-by-step instructions on how they could kill themselves.

Melchert-Dinkel was convicted in March of two counts of aiding suicide in the deaths of 32-year-old Mark Drybrough, of Coventry, England, who hanged himself in 2005; and 18-year-old Nadia Kajouji, of Brampton, Ontario, who jumped into a frozen river in 2008.

He was sentenced May 4 to 360 days in jail, but has remained free. Since the notice of appeal was filed before a Wednesday deadline, he’ll remain free while the appeal is pending, provided he abides by the terms of his probation.

In a statement read by Watkins at sentencing, Melchert-Dinkel said he was sorry for his role in the suicides.

He has admitted that what he did was morally wrong, but claims he did nothing illegal. Prosecutors said Melchert-Dinkel told police he did it for the “thrill of the chase.”

Watkins had tried to get the case dismissed on free speech grounds early on, arguing that the allegations were based on Internet postings, emails and online chats, and that his client had no direct participation in the suicides.

He also argued that the victims were predisposed to suicide and that his client’s online statements didn’t sway them.

But Rice County District Court Judge Thomas Neuville disagreed, saying Melchert-Dinkel’s actions were calculated, intentional and fraudulent.

“When you use speech in this manner, it’s not protected,” Neuville said during the sentencing. “It’s criminal.”

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (26)
  1. Sue says:

    What a pig. Take yourself deep you loser!

  2. HUH!? says:

    I dont even see how he “aided” anything unless there is a ton of the facts missing..

    1. Stand Up People says:

      He basically preyed on depresed/suicidal people online, encouraged them to kill themselves, and even entered into suicide pacts with some (he obviously didn’t intend to keep up his end of the bargain)

      What he did is evil and wrong….but it isn’t a crime. Words alone are not sufficient enough to “cause” someone to kill themselves. This is a miscarriage of justice at its finest. The prosecutor had their head, way up their arse on this one. You cannot MAKE anyone kill themselves. Where the hell is the personal accountability in this society?? These people made the ultimate choice of their own free will…he did not purchase supplies for them, help them set it up, help them commit the act…NOTHING.

      While i agree with nothing this man said to those people….i will defend his right to say until i die. Thats part of what our country is founded upon.

      Some people…like to insert their own sense of morals and right or wrong into the law in order to charge this guy with a crime. But that is the biggest miscarriage of justice ever. I don’t care if you agree or disagree with what he did….he should have the right to say whatever he wants/whenever he wants (as long as it does not present a clear & present danger) without fear of losing his freedom because of it.

      Pretty soon, the wife who gets caught cheating on her severely depressed husband…who them kills himself…….will be next.


      1. Karen says:

        Get a life you heartless tea bagger

        1. Stand Up People says:

          EXACTLY…..if it were up to Karen she would judge/sentence us all based on her own PERSONAL views and NOT the law. But people like her are too dumb to see the inherent problem that kind of justice.

          Thank you Karen, your small brain is exactly what i was talking about….your proved my point perfectly.

          1. Agree to Stand Up says:

            @ Stand Up People

            Dont take it personal, people like that are intellectually inferior in that regard. That is to say, they are incapable of seperating emotion from the legal matter at hand.

            She isn’t evil, just following her heart. But thats what the makes the current jury system so unpredictable and unfair many times.

          2. Karen says:

            at least I don’t have a tiny UNIT………take it easy on the caps

            1. Stand Up People says:

              You also dont have a man, good job, self respect, or a healthy body weight…..congrats!!

              Should we continue to list all the other things you dont have?

              You are out matched and out witted….take it easy simpleton.

  3. Not so sure about this ruling says:

    While what he did was morally wrong, these people were planning on committing suicide anyway. I am not sure how he aided them other than words. England and Canada don’t have Freedom of Speech laws though. This is a grey issue for me.

  4. Rsvl MN says:

    THis “person” is a preditor. You must not have read more that this article to post such a stronly opinionated and misguided post. No one is “insering morals”. That has nothing to do with this case.
    He repeatedly requested (I’ll say it nicely) the young girl (17 – heavier crime there) who jumped to her death to hang herself, along with all the direction to make it work, and persued multiple times his request / want for her to set up a web cam so that he could watch. This person is a PROVEN menance and can be charged and ordered psych eval. based on our American laws that we have the fortune to be protected by – in this case, mentally vulnerable children / adults. By legal definition he is a threat as a menace with the intention of causing harm (“evil” is the legal term.). Enough of the crack pots, please.

    1. Stand Up People says:

      You say crack pots. But i am not convinced you know what you are talking about.

      Again, you are just inserting your own morals to convict this man. You say American Laws…but that shows how ignorant you are. We don’t have “American laws”…we have State and Federal laws. We also have the constitution with the amendments (American laws if that is easier for you to understand) which protect our FREE SPEECH in addition to our physical freedom.

      You also used the term “vulnerable adults”….unfortunately there is a legal burden of proof one must meet to legally classify an individual as a “vulnerable adult”. To my knowledge…NONE of the “victims” were vulnerable adults…….so there goes that argument for you too.

      And here is the crux of the issue….no spoken words can make a person kill themselves. If you argue otherwise…you take away any sense of personal responsibility for one’s own actions. Now THAT is a threat and menace to society.

      So you use generalities, annecdotes and your own personal views to judge this man. Not one sentence you used to argue your point was based on a fact of law.

  5. kapulas says:

    Cases like this are difficult are you cannot judge them until you know the facts. On the one hand this is like Bernie Madoff talking to people who had a predisposition to get rich and bulls**tting them to their detriment. On the other it’s no different than any other form of free speech, and the plethora of websites out there offering suicide cocktails or other tips on how to “be or not to be.” I certainly wouldn’t give this guy a medal but 360 days in jail at taxpayer expense seems a bit much. Maybe he loses his RN license.

    Oh, and by the way, I must say to a lot of you whose posts I read, there is a spell check feature on most computers these days that would help to decipher your ill-conceived and vacuous rants. It’s right there next to the “I’m an idiot and can’t spell” button.

  6. Rsvl MN says:

    Oh – and one more for those still doubting that this is a criminal case –
    Acts of Malice are actionalble offenses in BOTH the civil and criminal legal systems. Injurious (in this case) acts are pursued by gov. prosecutors.
    Enough with the “while this is morally wrong” comments. It is not a quesion of morals or anyone’s opnions. It is our Law.

  7. Rsvl MN says:

    It is the law, idiot. Not once did I state personal views, and I used the term American to simplify if for you. Too bad being stupd isn’t a crime. We as AMERICANS are protected, and yes, if you had read more than this article before posting YOUR opinions on “small brained people” you would have read that the dead can easily be proven as vulnerable adults. And yes, I know damn well what I am talking about.

    1. Stand Up People says:

      “It is the Law”

      What law smart guy?

      Show me any law where it states it is illegal to encourage others to commit suicide??

      Well there isnt any….and thats why this guy only got 1 year in jail. Because they couldn’t convict him under laws that dont exist, so they manipulated and twisted other, less severe laws to punish him in this case.

      Also you said, “the dead can easily be proven as vulnerable adults.” Were they in this case? To my knowledge they were not. So if not, why even bring up that fact…it is pointless and has nothing to do with this case.

      Looks like we are going to have to agree to disagree on this one. Even though we don’t agree….I respect your right to voice your opinion.

      1. Sam says:

        You’re a blowhard…………….enough already!

  8. Consider this..... says:

    Unless and until you have personally felt the despair of feeling that life isn’t worth living, you cannot know what these young people were going through. Yes, they were thinking about suicide, and that alone should indicate to anyone that they were vulnerable. People just don’t “consider suicide” when they are of “sound mind”. There are MANY things going on in their minds to allow them to come to the conclusion that death is better than life. Having someone actively encouraging you to get help, hang on, etc. can often sway the suicidal person to cling to hope – and to life. The same can be said for someone who actively encourages the person to end their life and reinforces their misguided thoughts about how death is their best solution to whatever they’re going through. Those actions can push a person over the edge. This is not about “personal responsibility” on the part of those who are sadly gone now. This is about personal responsibility for Melchert-Dinkel. HIS actions caused these people to believe in their hopelessness….and act on it. One wonders how he would feel if someone preyed on HIS daughters during a time of deep emotional stress and guided THEIR hands to end their lives. NO ONE can say for certain that these victims would have followed through with their plans w/o Melchert-Dinkel’s involvement, but it is a certainty that they had no chance of getting help to LIVE with a predator like him influencing them.

  9. fred says:

    I wish this clown would take his own advice and take a long walk on a short pier….hope he makes lots of friends in prison. .

  10. Human Bean says:

    This man trolled for victims……just like the guy who goes after drunk women, or the serial killer who likes blondes, or the pedophile who prefers 10 yr old boys……does that not make it a crime? Your morals are different? Trolling for fish is ok, trolling for VICTIMS can not be on the same level!

  11. jeff says:

    you are a complete idiot, so blinded by the great laws of this country you have no compassion for the victims in this case. that said, we all have the freedom of speech. that right is negated when, in using it, you infringe on others rights. anyone who is suicidal is vulnerable. if you can’t see that then you are truly lost. instead of encouraging them to jump off a bridge he could have encouraged them to get help. what’s worse is the fact that he was a nurse. someone who’s charged with helping people. so the question becomes does encouraging someone to kill themselves constitute infringing on their rights?

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