A former nurse who told police he went on the Internet and encouraged dozens of depressed people to kill themselves for the “thrill of the chase” was charged on Friday with helping a Canadian woman and a British man commit suicide, authorities said.
After nearly two years of investigation, William Melchert-Dinkel, 47, was charged with two felony counts of aiding suicide under a rarely used decades-old state law that legal experts say could be difficult to prosecute on freedom-of-speech grounds.
Melchert-Dinkel is accused of encouraging the suicides of Mark Drybrough, 32, who hanged himself at his home in Coventry, England, in 2005; and Nadia Kajouji, 18, of Brampton, Ontario, who drowned in 2008 in a river in Ottawa, where she was studying at Carleton University.
Prosecutors say Melchert-Dinkel posed as a female nurse — using the online names “Cami,” “falcongirl,” “li dao” and others — then feigned compassion for those he met in suicide chat rooms, while offering step-by-step instructions on how to take their lives.
The criminal complaint filed in the case said he told investigators he encouraged “dozens” of people to commit suicide and “characterized it as the thrill of the chase.” He also estimated that he had actually assisted up to five people kill themselves.
Kajouji’s mother, Deborah Chevalier, said she was overwhelmed when she heard the news.
“My insides were shaking, I was crying and laughing at the same time,” she wrote in an e-mail, adding that the charges were long overdue.
Reached at his home in Faribault on Friday, Melchert-Dinkel said he had no comment. His attorney, Terry Watkins, also declined to discuss the case in detail, saying he hadn’t received all the evidence yet.
Melchert-Dinkel, whose first court appearance is scheduled for May 25, told police in January last year that he stopped the Internet chats shortly after Christmas 2008 for moral and legal reasons. He said he “felt terrible” about the advice to commit suicide he provided to others.
An e-mail found on Drybrough’s computer from Melchert-Dinkel showed him giving technical advice on how to hang yourself from a door, “you can easily hang from a door using the knob [on the other] side to tie the rope to, sling it over the top of the door, attach the noose or loop to yourself then step off and hang successfully,” the complaint says.