TORONTO – A Minnesota judge has found former nurse William Melchert-Dinkel guilty of counselling a Canadian student online to commit suicide in 2008 as well as encouraging a British man to hang himself in 2005.
Judge Thomas Neuville on Tuesday found the Internet predator intentionally sought depressed people online, posed as a suicidal female nurse and entered into fake suicide pacts with them.
While aiding suicide has long been against the law in both the U.S. and Canada, this is believed to be the first time anyone has been convicted of using the Internet to do so.
Melchert-Dinkel, 48, could face 15 years in jail on each count. Sentencing is scheduled for May 4.
The judge's decision comes just days after the 18-year-old Nadia Kajouji's still grieving family marked three years since she took her life.
"He's not a human; he's an animal," Mohamed Kajouji said of the man now convicted of encouraging his only daughter to commit suicide.
Nadia was a popular, bright scholar in Brampton, Ont., when she headed off to Carleton University in Ottawa the fall of 2007.
She never told her family that she was growing increasingly depressed in Ottawa and had been talking about killing herself.
On March 9, 2008, she disappeared from her dorm room, telling a friend she was going skating. Instead, she jumped into the icy Rideau Rive r— her body remaining undiscovered until the thaw six weeks later.
When Ottawa police examined her computer, they found her disturbing suicide pact with a similarly despondent young nurse named Cami D. She'd been advising Nadia on ideal suicide methods and even urged her to do it on camera.
"Well, if it comes down to hanging, I can help you with it with the (web)cam," she advised Nadia during one chat. "Proper positioning of the rope is important."
But Cami D was not a young suicidal woman at all. Instead, "she" was a middle-aged Minnesota nurse and father of two daughters who trolled Internet chat rooms preying on the vulnerable who could be coerced into taking their lives.
Melchert-Dinkel exchanged e-mails with Nadia two hours before her fatal jump.
Prosecutors in Minnesota believe it's unlikely the vulnerable university student and Mark Drybrough, 32, of Coventry, England, were his only victims. Melchert-Dinkel had suicide pacts with 10 people online, five of whom went on to kill themselves.
Nadia's brother remains bitter the Ottawa Police Service never laid charges against his sister's predator, but he is eternally grateful to the Minnesota authorities for pursuing the unusual case.
"This man is being held accountable for his actions and that's the most important thing," said Marc Kajouji. "They wouldn't shy away from something that was difficult and I commend them for that. They did a great job."
In the meantime, Kajouji has worked tirelessly for suicide prevention and has even entered a contest to win money for his charity yourlifecounts.org.
"I know it sounds silly," he said. "But it seems like better odds than getting government funding or substantial funds from the public.
“That is how great the stigma is with suicide prevention work,” he added.
He is determined to travel to Minnesota for Melchert-Dinkel's sentencing. His father will not.
"I don't think I'll be able to control myself if I see him. That was my little girl," her dad said, his voice filled with tears. "Every time I see her name or see a young woman come towards me, it comes back. It's very, very hard."
He simply cannot understand how a father of two teenage girls could be so cruel.
"I just thank God justice has been done for my daughter and he's finally going to get what he deserves," he said. "It won't bring Nadia back, but he will know that he can't play with people's lives."