AKA: The Internet Black Widow, Melissa Weeks, Melissa Stewart, Melissa Friedrich, Melissa Sheppard
Born: May 16, 1935
Active: 1990 to 2012
Location: Canada and United States
Method of Disposal: Vehicular manslaughter, benzodiazepines
Consequence: A smattering of minimum jail terms
- Gordon Stewart (second husband)
- Robert Friedrich (third husband)
- Russell Sheppard (first husband)
- Alexander Strategos (domestic partner)
- Fred Weeks (fourth husband)
Millie’s early life was fairly uneventful. She was born in 1935 in Burnt Church, New Brunswick, and lived there for the first 18 years of her life. When she was 18, Millie moved to Ontario and completed her high school certificate via correspondence. She met and married factory worker Russell Sheppard in 1955, living with him in Ontario and then Prince Edward Island. It was a union that produced two children. A rather nondescript life up to that point.
Her life would maintain its regular pace for the first 15 years of her marriage to Russell. However, Millie spent most of the 1970s racking up offences ranging from fraud to forgery, even littering, eventually earning her a five-year jail term. This clearly placed a significant strain on her relationship with Russell. By the time she was released from jail in 1985, Millie found she was a husband short. Millie returned to Prince Edward Island to begin anew.
The First Murder:
It wasn’t until 1988 that Millie found new companion Gordon Stewart. It was a whirlwind romance. Despite still being legally married to Russell Sheppard, though separated, Millie saw no impediment to marrying Gordon in 1990 in Las Vegas, the shiniest of all the cliched wedding locations. A second ceremony was conducted in Vancouver, presumably because Millie believed in redundancy.
Gordon may have appeared to be swept of his feet, but he was not completely taken in. He was not blind to his steadily dwindling savings account, which he couldn’t completely explain away as being due to having bankrolled two weddings. Millie was also proving to be a woman of rather expensive tastes. Gordon did not voice these concerns though; he was not about to admit he’d erred in jumping into marriage so quickly with this woman he’d only known for a short time.
Just before Christmas 1990, Gordon fell ill. On December 23rd, he became delusional and was found later that day, frothing at the mouth. Gordon was hospitalised, where he was found to have benzodiazepine in his system. The hospital stay did wonders for his health and he was soon discharged.
Once he returned home from the hospital, Gordon had it out with Millie. The hospital stay had given him time to think. He had already been suspicious that Millie was depleting his bank account. Now he was convinced that she had tried to poison him. The doctor’s test results had been proof enough of that. The argument turned physical and Gordon slapped her. This earned him an assault charge which landed Gordon in jail. He was only paroled on the proviso that Gordon stay away from Millie, and was issued a restraining order to this effect.
Millie, under the misapprehension that restraining orders are one sided, soon resumed contact with Gordon. She told him that she wanted to get the relationship back on track. Gordon let her back into his life, but only because he hoped he could find some way of getting at least some of his missing money back. The couple reunited and moved to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
Millie soon realised that Gordon had his own ulterior motive for continuing the relationship. She wasn’t sure what that motive was, but she surmised that it probably had something to do with that pesky depleted nest egg he was always crowing about.
So on April 27th 1991 Millie got him drunk, and then took him out for a drive. On a suitably deserted road in Nova Scotia, she pushed the overly inebriated Gordon out of the car onto the road, then ran over him twice with the car.
Three hours later she turned herself in at the police station. Yes, she had killed Gordon, but it was self-defence. Millie alleged that Gordon had raped her at knife-point and she had accidentally run over him, twice, in her effort to escape when he got out of the car to urinate. A tragic story, made even more newsworthy by later tests revealing that Gordon had enough benzodiazepine in his system to render him unconscious at the time he was run over.
While waiting for her court hearing, Millie tied up a few loose ends. First, she applied for a pension which she was entitled to as the widow of recently deceased veteran Gordon Stewart. And then she finally got round to finalising that pesky leftover divorce from her first husband Russell.
Millie was convicted and jailed on the lesser charge of manslaughter, for 6 years. She soon became a minor celebrity for the cause of battered women everywhere, giving interviews about her plight. Her tireless efforts earned her an early parole date. She served only two years of that original six year sentence.
After her release Millie became something of a media darling, touring the country with her tale of domestic violence. Her efforts earned her a government grant to support her. She was even interviewed for a documentary on battered wife syndrome and killing in self defence. In 1996 Millie set up a telephone counselling service for women in prison called Project Another Chance.
However, Millie was not without her detractors during this time. A Canadian journalist called Barb McKenna published an article in The Guardian, doubting Millie’s claims regarding Gordon’s death and raising questions about her criminal history. Millie threatened to sue the journalist over the article, although it isn’t clear whether she ever made good on that threat.
Civil action notwithstanding, so far Millie hadn’t done badly out of this husband-killing racket.
The Second Murder:
While she had been in prison, Millie had managed to find God (turned out He was under the sink). So when she met Floridian Robert Friedrich in 2000 at a Christian retreat, she saw his entry into her life as divine intervention and they were married within a month. Robert appeared to be smitten with his new bride. However, his son was soon suspicious of the lady. Bob Friedrich had noticed a sharp decline in his father’s well being, exhibiting slurred speech and faltering health. At one point, Bob contacted the Elder Abuse Line to report Millie’s activities. Nothing was done. Robert soon had his will changed to make Millie the sole beneficiary, which no doubt would have cemented Bob’s dislike of his new step mother if he had found out.
Because it had take some time for Robert to get with the program and change the will, he would survive for a year and a half into the marriage before keeling over. He was cremated quickly. Millie obtained a severance package of roughly $100,000 from Robert’s will, and continued to collect his social security cheques on his behalf. Canadian authorities at this time started investigating Millie, presumably because she had continued to receive a Veteran’s pension from her marriage to Gordon during the time that she was living with and married to Robert.
A Third Attempt:
Newly widowed again, Millie sent out her feelers for a new beau. The Internet was a thing now, and she took advantage of this great new way to contact men from all over the continent. Alexander Strategos was one of twenty men she contacted. He met Millie in 2004, through an internet dating site. Within 24 hours of meeting, she was sharing his bed and feeding him ice cream. Some time during that first night Alexander became so ill he fell trying to reach the bathroom and hit his head, requiring hospital treatment. Over the course of the next year he would be hospitalised a further seven times. His health eventually became so precarious that he signed over power of attorney to Millie.
During one of these hospital stays, Alexander’s son Dean discovered that tests results showed benzodiazepine in his system. This medication had never been prescribed to Alexander. Dean also realised that $18,000 was missing from his father’s bank account. He notified the authorities, who were very interested to hear what had been happening to Alexander.
As it turned out, it wasn’t only the Canadians who had become interested in Millie’s activities. The police in Florida had also been keeping an eye on Millie for the past few years due to the doctor shopping she had been engaging in to obtain the medications necessary to bump off Robert Friedrich. There had never been enough evidence to charge her with that, but upon hearing from Dean about his father’s missing money, they were able to charge her with exploitation of the elderly, theft and forgery.
In March 2005, Millie pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years jail time. And in true Millie form, she was out in four. There was of course the matter of that fraud investigation from Canada, which should have seen Millie extradited from the United States to begin proceedings there once she was released. However, Canada decided two days out from her release date that there were insufficient grounds to charge her for the $30,000 worth of fraudulently obtained funds. So upon release in April 2009, Millie was deported back to Canada to live out her days in relative obscurity.
For about three years.
At which point she met Fred Weeks.
And a Fourth:
Millie befriended the quiet widower, whose favourite pastimes included cribbage and karaoke, in August 2012. On September 25th of that year, they were married in a civil ceremony. The Justice of the Peace, who had performed the ceremony, had his reservations about the union. He had recently seen the bride in a television interview which detailed her criminal history, including the death of Gordon Stewart. After the wedding, he contact the police to have them act on his concerns. The police determined that there was not enough cause for alarm, because of course they did.
For the honeymoon, Millie and Fred planned a ferry ride to Nova Scotia straight after the wedding. It was clear before they’d even reached the dock that there was a problem. Fred was driving the car to the ferry, but soon felt dizzy and almost drove his car off the road.
The couple checked into a guesthouse upon arrival on 28th September. Fred was still feeling ill, but Millie wasn’t concerned. She told the guesthouse owners that he was suffering from dementia and other assorted illnesses. The following morning, after enough people had pointed out how sick he looked, Millie relented and asked for an ambulance. Then she insisted on finishing her breakfast. Because priorities.
Upon reaching the hospital, Millie repeated her husband’s lengthy medical history to the doctors, and also advised that he was childless. This came as a surprise to his son and daughter, who were advised of this when they called the hospital. As the siblings knew that their father’s only medical issue prior to his marriage had been high cholesterol, they called the police.
So yet another of Millie’s marriages was ending in an investigation. Fred Weeks soon recovered from his illness and was released. Once it was determined that his system contained abnormally high levels of benzodiazepine, Millie was detained and the couple’s room was searched. Copious amounts of the drug Lorazepam was found, along with prescriptions originating from multiple doctors, and a tub of suspicious looking ice cream.
Despite this wealth of evidence, Millie was only charged with the crime of administering a noxious thing and with failing to provide necessity of life. She pleaded guilty to these charges in June 2013, receiving a three and a half year sentence.
Fred Weeks recovered completely from his marriage to Millie. And soon found out that his marriage to Millie was not in fact valid. Seems the Justice of the Peace was so distracted by his concerns about the union that he made a mistake when completing the paperwork. What a spot of luck that was.
Alexander Strategos also survived the Millie Effect, even receiving reimbursement from his bank for the money Millie had taken from his account.
Millie was released from this most recent sentence on March 18th 2016, having served only 2 years, 9 months and 10 days of the original sentence. The authorities have taken to the media at this time to loudly warn all Canadians, Americans and anyone with access to the Internet to lock up the octogenarians. Entire world, consider yourself warned.
Many people no doubt have an opinion about Millie. However, the best has come from the lady herself. Millie proclaimed in the 2012 CBC documentary The Widow’s Web, that she had acted in self defence when Gordon was killed, and that there was not a pattern to her behaviour. “I do feel that I’m being railroaded and a lot of it is based on past record.”
Yes, Millie. Yes it is.
Millie Weeks Videography
“Jim Fisher True Crime.” : Melissa Ann Friedrich: Canada’s “Internet Black Widow” Web. 28 May 2016.
Kassam, Ashifa. “Canada’s Black Widow: The Rosy-cheeked Killer Is Back on the Streets.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 25 Mar. 2016. Web. 28 May 2016.
“Melissa Ann Friedrich.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 28 May 2016.
“Melissa Friedrich | Murderpedia, the Encyclopedia of Murderers.” Melissa Friedrich | Murderpedia, the Encyclopedia of Murderers. 12 Jan. 2005. Web. 28 May 2016.
“Melissa Sheppard.” Deadlywomen Wiki. Web. 28 May 2016.
“The Unknown History of MISANDRY.” : Melissa Friedrich (Weeks), “The Internet Black Widow” of Nova Scotia. Web. 28 May 2016.