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© The Canadian Press/Andrew Vaughan
Melissa Ann Shepard arrives at Supreme Court in Sydney, N.S., for her sentencing hearing on Tuesday, June 11, 2013. Shepard, the 78-year-old woman dubbed the "Black Widow", pleaded guilty to administering a noxious thing and failing to provide the necessities of life for drugging a man she had married days earlier.
SYDNEY — A Nova Scotia woman dubbed the “Black Widow” received the maximum jail sentence today after pleading guilty to charges involving her former husband.
Melissa Ann Shepard, 78, was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in a federal prison after pleading guilty to administering a noxious substance, a benzodiazepine, and with failing to provide the necessaries of life. She was also facing a charge of attempted murder but that offence was withdrawn Monday.
Shepard was given credit for the eight months and 10 days she served on remand since her arrest in September 2012 reducing her sentence to two years, nine months and 10 days.
“People who have contact with this lady should be careful. Do not allow yourself to be victimized,” said Supreme Court Chief Justice Joseph Kennedy, who accepted the Crown recommendation on sentencing.
The defence had requested a sentence of two years.
Shepard was charged with spiking the coffee of her then husband Fred Weeks with a sedative which severely reduced his ability to act independently.
The offences occurred between Sept. 24 and Sept. 30, 2012, in North Sydney.
Weeks, 75, of New Glasgow, married Shepard a day prior to the couple hitting the road for a honeymoon. The province's Vital Statistics division advised Weeks it would not be registering his marriage because false information was provided on the marriage document.
According to the statement of facts, Weeks and Shepard were married Sept. 25, 2012. The couple planned to honeymoon in Newfoundland and Labrador, and on Sept. 26, boarded the Marine Atlantic ferry in North Sydney to Port aux Basques.
"Witness accounts and video surveillance obtained from one of the business in the Sydney area visited by Mr. Weeks and Ms. Shepard on Sept. 26, 2012, confirmed that at the time, Mr. Weeks was alert and showing no signs of physical impairment," Crown prosecutor Gerald MacDonald said in reading the statement of facts.
The following morning when the couple went to disembark the vessel, crew members noticed a difference in Weeks’s appearance and abilities.
He was described as being unable to walk, garbled speech and having very little strength. Staff from the vessel drove the couple to a nearby hotel where Weeks was later found wandering the hall, confused over where his room was located. The couple again boarded the ferry Sept. 27 to return to North Sydney and upon arrival, checked into a North Sydney bed and breakfast where staff described Weeks as someone who did not look well. Shortly after 8 a.m. on Sept. 29, Shepard asked that ambulance be called for her husband. Paramedics arrived and found Weeks on the floor of his room.
Staff at the Northside hospital became concerned in receiving conflicting reports from Shepard about her husband's health. Shepard said he had a form of dementia, prostate problems, respiratory problems, and had bowel surgery. She also told hospital staff there were no other family members.
A check of the province's health data showed that Weeks did have a son who was contacted. The other information provided by Shepard also proved to be false.
Police found Shepard in possession of several prescription medications, including lorazepam and temazepam, along with several pieces of identification that listed other last names used by the woman, including Friedrich and Russell.
Blood tests concluded that Weeks had high levels of both lorazepam and temazepam in his system. Shepard admitted to dropping both medications into coffee that she gave to Weeks in the days leading up to his hospitalization.
Weeks was in the courtroom Monday but offered no comment.
Shepard already has a criminal record involving former husbands and boyfriends, and has been dubbed by media as the Internet Black Widow.
She was convicted in 1991 of manslaughter in connection with the death of another husband.
She was also convicted of fraud and served time in a Florida jail in connection with another man she met through an Internet dating site.