After a lengthy appeals process, the Minnesota Supreme Court decided on March 19 to overturn the conviction of William Melchert-Dinkel. The 51-year-old former nurse was found guilty in 2012 of convincing two people via email to kill themselves. Now, due to technicality of language in Minnesota’s suicide laws, Melchert-Dinkel case will be re-evaluated.
Here is what you need to know:
1. His Conviction Was Overturned
On March 19, the Minnesota Supreme Court overturned Melchert-Dinkel’s 2012 conviction. He was sentenced to 360 days in prison, time that was put off until the Supreme Court made its ruling.
The court found that the state’s suicide law, which prohibits the “encouraging” of suicide, was unconstitutional and violated a persons freedom of speech. “Assisting” suicide is still illegal, however.
2. He Posed as a Suicidal Woman in Talks With Eventual Victims
The two incidents described in the prosecution of Melchert-Dinkel involve the 2005 suicide of an English 31-year-old named Mark Drybrough, and the 2008 suicide of Canadian 19-year-old Nadia Kajoiji.
According to the appeals decision, which you can read above, Melchert-Dinkel first made contact with Mark Drybrough under the guise of Li Dao, a 25-year-old woman. Melchert-Dinkel emailed Drybrough after he posted a question online about how to hang one’s self without a high ceiling. A long email conversation ensued during which Melchert-Dinkel, posing as Dao, instructed him on how to do it and convinced him that “she” was also suicidal. The two exchanged emails between July 1 and July 22. In their last communication, Drybrough wrote:
I keep holding on to the hope that things might change. Caught between being suicidal and considering it. Same old story! . . . I don’t want to waste anyone’s time. If you want someone who’s suicidal, I’m just not there yet. . . . Sorry. I admire your courage, I wish I had it.
Four days later, Drybrough hanged himself in his Coventry home.
Three years late, now going by the name “Cami” and using the email address “Falcon Girl,” Melchert-Dinkel found 19-year-old Nadia Kajouji on an website where people discussed suicide methods. Melchert-Dinkel seems to have an obsession with hanging as a good portion of the conversations held with both victims revolve around him encouraging and instructing them to hang themselves. “Cami” and Nadia made plans to kill themselves together, with a push by Cami to even do it while webcam chatting.
Mere hours after their final chat, Nadia, hoping to make it look like an accident, emailed her roommate at 1:43 a.m. saying she was going to, “brave the weather and go ice skating.” She jumped into a frozen river and her body was found 11 days later.
3. He Had a ‘Suicide Fetish’ & Asked up to 20 People to Die on Webcam
In his own testimony, Melchert-Dinkel told prosecutors he believed he asked between 15 and 20 people to commit suicide on camera while he watched. While he never actually witnessed a suicide, he did believe that at least five of the people he had talked to were successful in taking their their own lives. He also entered into around 10 “suicide pacts” where he promised to kill himself simultaneously with the person he had been chatting with.
In 2009, as prosecutors were working on a case and authorities were figuring out how to charge him, ABC reported that Melchert-Dinkel was admitted to a hospital where he told doctors he had a “suicide fetish,” and an addiction to suicide websites.
4. He Was a Nurse for Over a Decade
In 2009, ABC uncovered a long and documented history of “on-the-job reprimands and accusations” from the Board of Nursing, which he had been affiliated with since the early ’90s. They report that the reprimands began in 1994, just three years after getting his nursing license, at a Minneapolis nursing home.
He was accused of failing to administer medicine, disrespecting cultural differences, and even abuse.
5. The Case Will Continue in a Lower Court to Decide if He ‘Assisted’
Since “encouraging” suicide was deemed an act of free speech by the Minnesota Supreme Court, a lesser court must now decide if he is guilty of “Assisting” these suicides. In the case of Drybrough, who took his advice and hung himself, it could be determined that Melchert-Dinkel taught him how to do it, and therefore assisted in the suicide.
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