A Minnesota man who pretended to be a female nurse and convinced two people to kill themselves has been found guilty of aiding suicide. But he plans to appeal, and his lawyers argue his victims would've killed themselves anyway.
According to the Times of London, William Melchert-Dinkel used a variety of female pseudonyms to contact vulnerable people online and enter suicide pacts with them. A former nurse himself, he gave them tips on ending their lives, then struck agreements with his victims that "they would hang themselves in front of internet webcams and watch each other die." He'd then renege on his end of the bargain and simply watch as his target committed suicide. The Times said last year that he had given his suicide "advice" to over 100 people and was implicated in at least five suicides, but according to the AP, he's only been convicted for two deaths: those of 32-year-old Englishman Mark Drybrough and 18-year-old Nadia Kajouji of Ontario, Canada. Both suffered from depression — in addition, Kajouji had recently miscarried. Melchert-Dinkel says he targeted them and urged them to their deaths for "the thrill of the chase."
Melchert-Dinkel's lawyer had argued that since Drybrough and Kajouji were already depressed, his client didn't really cause their deaths. But DA Paul Beaumaster counters,
That's the point. That's who he looked for. He targeted individuals he knew he could have an influence on. Were they predisposed? Absolutely!
The defense plans to appeal, but for now the judge has sided with Beaumaster, saying that urging someone to commit suicide, like "fighting words" or "immediate incitement to lawlessness," is not protected by the First Amendment. Melchert-Dinkel is slated to be sentenced May 4 — he could get up to 15 years.