Melissa Ann Stewart, who also goes by Melissa Ann Friedrich and Millie Weeks, in this Guardian file photo dated 2005
©Guardian file photo
The only time I was ever sued as a journalist was by the infamous Internet Black Widow — Melissa Ann Shepard.
Shepard is finishing her prison sentence and Correctional Service Canada prepares to set her free on March 20. On a conviction of administering a noxious substance to the last man she attempted to marry, and failing to provide the necessities of life, she was sentenced to two years, nine months and 10 days, served in Truro’s Nova Institute for Women.
My run-in with the now infamous Shepard came back in the 1990s, when I was working as a journalist at The Guardian newspaper in Prince Edward Island.
Shepard had just got out of Dorchester Penitentiary for killing her then husband, Gordon Stewart. At the time, she was travelling across Canada speaking as a “battered woman” who had killed in self-defence. She even starred in a documentary about battered women in Canada. And, she got a grant from the Ontario government.
Problem was, Melissa Shepard was not a battered woman. A cold-blooded killer more like it. She spent most of her life on P.E.I. and that’s where she married her husband Gordon. Soon after they moved to Halifax, she drugged him, drove him to an abandoned logging road, and ran over him, not once, but twice.
Someone tipped me off, after hearing her being interviewed on Peter Gzowski’s radio show as a battered woman, that she just might not be what she seemed.
Oh, but she was smooth. She had a sweet, docile voice and looked like a sad and tragic middle-aged princess.
As I looked into her past, I was shocked. Gordon Stewart was in a drug-induced coma when she ran over him, twice. She drove over him, then backed up over him to make sure the job was done. He was in no state to be battering anyone. His autopsy found that he was full of tranquilizers, and Melissa didn’t report her “accident” to the police for quite some time afterwards.
I compared the story she was telling then to the court transcript, and found that not once did she mention battered women’s syndrome.
I also discovered that she had over 30 convictions for fraud.
I eventually wrote a magazine article about Melissa Shepard’s lies — and that’s when she sued me. To shut me up. She didn’t want anyone to know the truth about her. Her lawsuit didn’t go anywhere — but she did — on to another husband, who mysteriously died. Of course his family is still very suspicious.
I later often wondered what had happened to Melissa Shepard. Then one day, years later, my work phone rang. It was policemen in Florida who had just arrested her for trying to kill another man. He had done a little research. They had came across my article.
Turns out she had driven down to Florida in a Cadillac after meeting a man on a “Christian” Internet dating site. She put drugs in his ice cream. He too almost died, but his family was very suspicious and luckily he was saved.
She was put in jail in Florida and I thought that would be the end of her. Come on, it’s jail in Florida, the United States, and she was in her 70s then. I didn’t suppose she’d ever get out.
But oh, she’s smooth, and she did get out. And moved to Nova Scotia. That’s where she met Fred Weeks of Stellarton. And once again, that’s when she began administering a noxious substance to a partner.
Despite her long history of killing or attempted killing, she was only sentenced to two years, nine months and 10 days. As I said, she’s smooth. She’ll be out on March 20, after having served her full sentence.
I’ve often wondered what drove Melissa Shepard. None of the men had much money —what was it inside her that made her want to kill men? Or is she just a psychopath?
Regardless, she’ll be walking our streets again soon. If she had been a man, she would have been declared a dangerous offender and put in jail for life. But she’s Melissa — and she’s very, very good at deception.
So older men, watch out. If a smooth talking widow comes your way batting eyelashes, run. Or at least don’t drink or eat anything she offers you.
And maybe she’ll sue me again.
Barb McKenna is the editor of the Queens County Advance in Liverpool, N.S. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.