October 18, 2016 - 10:22 AM
HALIFAX - An elderly woman who became known as the Internet Black Widow after she was convicted of killing and poisoning intimate partners she met online has agreed to drop most of her objections to a peace bond she signed when she was released from prison.
The lawyer for Melissa Ann Shepard appeared briefly Tuesday in a provincial court in the Halifax area, where he confirmed that his client was prepared to sign a new, two-year peace bond that imposes similar conditions on her freedom.
Mark Knox told the court Shepard — who is in her 80s — was expected to attend the hearing, but she would be late because she has trouble walking.
The hearing was supposed to deal with Shepard's earlier decision to challenge some of the 22 conditions in the original peace bond, but Knox said only a few details needed to be ironed out with the Crown before she returns to court on Oct. 31.
Shepard was released from prison in March after serving a full sentence of just under three years for spiking her husband's coffee with tranquilizers in 2012, soon after they were married in Cape Breton. She pleaded guilty to administering a noxious substance and failing to provide the necessities of life after Fred Weeks, 75, became ill during a brief trip to Newfoundland.
Under the original conditions of her release, Shepard was required to report to police any potential relationship with a man, keep authorities aware of where she is living, respect a curfew, and inform police of changes to her appearance. The conditions also included restrictions on her use of the Internet
"None of those are subject to any amendments," Crown attorney James Giacomantonio said outside court, noting that the two-year arrangement is the maximum allowed under the law.
"It's the most we could ask for, and we're going to get every day of it," he said.
However, he said there could be changes made to a requirement that Shepard report to police once a week. He said Knox has promised to send him medical documents and other information related to the case.
"She doesn't want to drive down to the police station and drive back every week," the prosecutor said. "We'll iron out the conditions. But we expect them to be almost exactly the conditions she's been on since her release in March."
Shepard eventually showed up at the court, using a wheeled walker to navigate from the parking lot to the courtroom, where she appeared briefly before a provincial court judge. She said nothing as she left the building, moving with a slow, shuffling gait.
In August, she pleaded not guilty to violating the peace bond by allegedly using a computer at the Halifax Central Library. She was charged in April and her trial has been scheduled for Feb. 1. She is facing three counts of breaching a recognizance, including a ban on accessing the Internet.
According to police, Shepard has a history of offences dating back to the early 1990s.
Police issued a public warning when Shepard was released, stating that she is considered a high risk to reoffend. She has been known to change her appearance and court documents indicate she has also used multiple names.
Previous last names include that of her former husband Robert Edmund Friedrich, who died in 2002, and of her second husband Gordon Stewart.
Stewart died after he was drugged and run over twice with a car. Shepard was convicted of manslaughter in his death in 1992.
She was also handed a five-year prison sentence in 2005 on seven counts of theft from a man in Florida who she had met online.
Prior to her recent release, a parole board report said Shepard tended to fabricate and deny events to correctional staff and is unable to link consequences to actions.
"The reason why we put someone like Ms. Shepard on a peace bond is because we are concerned that she can't manage her behaviour with her own free will," Giacomantonio said outside court. "We have to put certain conditions on her to protect the public and keep her in line."
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version reported that Mark Knox's first name is Paul.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2016