the republic logo

Minnesota man convicted of going online and assisting suicide gets jail time; says he's sorry

bug
Share/Save/Bookmark

FARIBAULT, Minnesota — A former nurse in Minnesota who admitted to going online years ago and preying upon suicidal people — encouraging two to take their lives — must serve nearly six months in jail as part of a sentence handed down Wednesday.

William Melchert-Dinkel, 52, was sentenced to three years in prison in the deaths of an English man and a Canadian woman, but he won't have to serve the prison term if he complies with conditions of his probation that include the jail time. Melchert-Dinkel must report to jail on Oct. 24.

"I am sorry ... for my actions and what I have done," Melchert-Dinkel said in court before he was sentenced. "I have repented."

Melchert-Dinkel was convicted in September of one count of assisting a suicide and one count of attempting to assist a suicide in a case that has played out for years and resulted in a reversal of his prior convictions and a change to Minnesota law. Here's a look at the case:


HOW IT BEGAN

Minnesota authorities began investigating in March 2008 after an anti-suicide activist in Britain claimed someone in the state was using the Internet to manipulate people into killing themselves. Authorities found emails in which Melchert-Dinkel gave a man technical advice on how to hang himself and online chats in which Melchert-Dinkel tried to talk a woman out of her plans to jump into a river and instead hang herself with him.

He was ultimately convicted in the deaths of Nadia Kajouji, 18, of Brampton, Ontario, and Mark Drybrough, 32, of Coventry, England. Kajouji jumped into a frozen river in 2008, and Drybrough hanged himself in 2005.

Authorities said Melchert-Dinkel was obsessed with suicide and hanging and sought out potential victims online. When he found them, prosecutors said, he posed as a female nurse, feigned compassion and offered step-by-step instructions on how they could kill themselves. Court records show Melchert-Dinkel told police he did it for the "thrill of the chase."


THE FIRST CONVICTION

Melchert-Dinkel was convicted in 2011 by Rice County Judge Thomas Neuville, who found that he "intentionally advised and encouraged" Drybrough and Kajouji to take their lives.

Defense attorney Terry Watkins appealed, saying Melchert-Dinkel's actions might have been immoral, but they were not illegal. Melchert-Dinkel remained free on appeal.

PHOTO: Defense attorney Terry Watkins leaves the courtroom at the Rice County Courthouse Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Faribault, Minn., where a judge sentenced his client, William Melchert-Dinkel, to 178 days in jail.  Melchert-Dinkel, a former nurse who admitted going online and encouraging an English man and a Canadian woman to kill themselves, was sentenced to nearly five years in prison, but he won't have to serve the prison term if he complies with conditions of probation that include the jail time.   (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
Defense attorney Terry Watkins leaves the courtroom at the Rice County Courthouse Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Faribault, Minn., where a judge sentenced his client, William Melchert-Dinkel, to 178 days in jail. Melchert-Dinkel, a former nurse who admitted going online and encouraging an English man and a Canadian woman to kill themselves, was sentenced to nearly five years in prison, but he won't have to serve the prison term if he complies with conditions of probation that include the jail time. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

__

HOW WE GOT HERE

The Minnesota Supreme Court reversed Melchert-Dinkel's convictions earlier this year. The justices found that Minnesota's law banning someone from "encouraging" or "advising" suicide is unconstitutional because it encompasses speech protected under the First Amendment. But the justices upheld part of the law that makes it a crime to "assist" in someone's suicide — and said speech could be considered assisting.

Neuville ruled last month that Melchert-Dinkel assisted in Drybrough's suicide and attempted to assist Kajouji's suicide, because she ultimately rejected his advice to hang herself and jumped into the river instead.

Melchert-Dinkel apologized Wednesday and said he wanted to continue to be a productive member of society.

Neuville said Melchert-Dinkel must face consequences.

"I believe you and your family have suffered. My sentence is also an attempt to recognize the need for justice to the victims," he said.


WHAT'S NEXT

Melchert-Dinkel will avoid prison if he abides by probation terms for the next 10 years. Meanwhile, his attorney Watkins says he thinks he has good grounds for appeal, arguing Melchert-Dinkel wouldn't have waived his right to a jury trial and that Watkins would have mounted a different defense under the law as narrowed by the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Rice County Attorney Paul Beaumaster said Wednesday's sentence affirms that what Melchert-Dinkel did was wrong.

"Am I satisfied that justice was done? Yes," Beaumaster said. "He has been held accountable."


Follow Amy Forliti on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/amyforliti

Think your friends should see this? Share it with them!

Story copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Feedback, Corrections and Other Requests: AP welcomes feedback and comments from readers. Send an email to info@ap.org and it will be forwarded to the appropriate editor or reporter.


Photo Gallery:
PHOTO: FILE - In this combination of file photos provided by their family is Mark Drybrough, left, from Coventry, England and Nadia Kajouji, from Brampton, Ontario. William Melchert-Dinkel, a former nurse who admitted going online and encouraging Kajouji and Drybrough to kill themselves, was ordered Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014 to serve 178 days in jail. He was sentenced to nearly five years in prison, but he won't have to serve the prison term if he complies with conditions of probation that include the jail time. (AP Photo/File)
Click to view (5 Photos)
We also have more stories about:
(click the phrases to see a list)

Category:

Follow The Republic:

All content copyright ©2014 The Republic, a division of Home News Enterprises unless otherwise noted.
All rights reserved. Privacy policy.