Minnesota ex-nurse gets jail term for assisting suicide

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 15, 2014 6:02 PM

By David Bailey

MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - A former nurse in Minnesota was ordered on Wednesday to serve about six months in jail for assisting in a British man's suicide and trying to assist in the suicide of a Canadian woman who died after jumping into a river.

William Melchert-Dinkel, 52, also must perform 200 hours of community service, not use the Internet except for work and serve 10 years probation, among other conditions, Rice County Judge Thomas Neuville ordered.

Neuville sentenced the Faribault, Minnesota, man to 178 days in jail. He was ordered to report to jail on Oct. 24.

Melchert-Dinkel was convicted in September of assisting the suicide of Mark Drybrough, 32, in Coventry, England, in 2005 by providing encouragement over the Internet but not physical assistance.

The judge also convicted him of trying to help Nadia Kajouji, 18, of Ottawa, commit suicide, though Neuville found that his encouragement and instruction in how to hang herself were not a direct cause of her 2008 drowning death.

Drybrough and Kajouji both had chatted online or exchanged emails with Melchert-Dinkel, who posed online as a suicidal female nurse and advised people on the proper methods for suicide, according to court papers.

Melchert-Dinkel's attorney, Terry Watkins, has said he would appeal the convictions. The former nurse has said his discussions amounted to free speech.

A British woman who had frequented a chat room where people discussed suicidal thoughts warned police in 2008 that she suspected an online predator was encouraging suicides. Police linked Melchert-Dinkel to related email addresses.

Melchert-Dinkel had entered a plea in which he accepted the evidence against him and allowed Neuville to render a verdict while preserving his right to appeal.

He was convicted in 2011, but the Minnesota Supreme Court threw out the convictions, upholding a part of state law that made it a crime to assist suicide, but not a part that made it a crime to encourage or advise a suicide, and returning the case to Neuville.

(Reporting by David Bailey; Editing by Eric Beech)