Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Suicide Predator found guilty on two counts of assisted suicide

William Francis Melchert-Dinkel has been found guilty of advising two people to commit suicide. The evidence shows that Melchert-Dinkel worked from his home in Minnesota, and used the internet to actively encourage Mark Drybrough to hang himself in Coventry, UK, in 2005. In 2008, he encouraged Nadia Kajouji to end her life in Ottawa, Canada. Both victims committed suicide within days or hours of Melchert-Dinkel’s last contact.

About The Victims

As a young man, Mark Drybrough displayed symptoms of depression. The disease became worse at about 30 years of age, when he had a nervous breakdown that made him unable to work. During that time, he began to meet other suicidal people on an internet chat site. For over seven weeks, Melchert-Dinkel consistently encouraged Mark to commit suicide. Mark hung himself at home on July 27 2005.

Nadia Kajouji had was in her first year at Carlton University in Ottawa. Shortly after a miscarriage, she was assailed by a deepening depression. Melchert-Dinkel pursued her on a different chat site, and for ten days intensely urged her to follow through on her suicidal feelings. Melchert-Dinkel encouraged Nadia to hang herself, in such a way that he could watch her death on the web-cam. She drowned after jumping into the freezing Rideau River March 9 or 10.

Both Mark and Nadia were in contact with loving parents. Both of them were suffering from depression. Both were receiving medication and professional counseling to deal with their suicidal thoughts. After hearing Melchert-Dinkel’s deceptive words, both Mark and Nadia died alone and in despair.

About Melchert-Dinkel

William Melchert-Dinkel is currently a 49-year-old husband and father of two. In statements to police, he revealed that he:
- had been frequenting suicide chat rooms for at least three years.
- was in contact with 11 suicidal people, of whom 5 committed suicide.
- hid his identity from the victims, most often representing himself as a female nurse
- used three different web identities to camouflage his activity
- kept his activities secret from his wife
- attempted to blame his daughter for the incriminating web correspondence
- offered specific advice on hanging, his preferred method
- attempted to persuade his victims to let him watch their strangulation on web cams
- pretended to enter suicide pacts with the victims, to encourage them to kill themselves
- freely described all of this to police officers, changing his story to avoid consequences

To neither his victims nor to their grieving families did he ever display more than the briefest display of sympathy. William Melchert-Dinkel is clearly a very sick man, but a criminally competent suicide predator.

Judge Thomas Neuville’s Decision

1. Minnesota’s law is valid. Suicide is not a fundamental liberty; the state has a compelling interest in preserving human life; and the law does not unduly restrict free speech.
2. Melchert-Dinkel’s speech is “categorically unprotected” by the U.S. constitution. To be protected as free speech, the specific speech must be publicly uttered, and must address an issue in the public interest. Melchert-Dinkel’s communication to the victims was private, and it did not address suicide as an issue for public discussion. Instead, the speech was uttered specifically to encourage the destruction of two human beings.
3. The suicidal tendency of his victims is no defense.
4. Under Minnesota law, Melchert-Dinkel can be held responsible for intending to utter speech that would encourage the suicide of the two victims. It is not necessary for the state to prove that Melchert-Dinkel intended their deaths, or that his speech was solely responsible for their deaths.
5. Melchert-Dinkel will be sentenced on May 4, 2011.

What This Means For Us

Minnesota appears to have a well-framed law that may serve as a model for similar laws in other jurisdictions. There is certainly a need for such a law: Melchert-Dinkel is not the only person with a voyeuristic compulsion to watch people die. Jack Kevorkian’s self-portrait is sketched with the same pencil.

Because cause-and-effect can easily straddle national boundaries, every jurisdiction has a responsibility to establish laws against the act of encouraging suicide via the internet. Nadia Kajouji was a Canadian citizen who died in Canada, yet Melchert-Dinkel was not extradited to face charges in Canada. It appears that the Ottawa police believed that Melchert-Dinkel was less likely to face justice in Canada than he was in Minnesota. The law must be amended to assure that Canada can protect people like Nadia and Mark from suicide predators from any nation with decisive strength.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition supported Harold Albrecht MP (Kitchener-Conestoga) who sponsored Motion 388 to urge the government to ensure that Section 241 of the Criminal Code effectively protects people like Nadia Kajouji from internet suicide predators like Melchert-Dinkel. We will be encouraging that a bill be introduced in the next parliament to amend the criminal code to ensure that internet suicide predators can be effectively prosecuted in Canada.

Link to a previous article concerning the Melchert-Dinkel case.

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