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Friday, 5 October 2012

Be careful who you meet over the Internet!

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A Nova Scotia justice of the peace says he asked police to warn his life-long friend, 75-year-old Fred Weeks, that he might be in danger the day after Weeks married a woman known as the Internet Black Widow.

But George Megeney says police told him they couldn’t get involved because the woman had served her time for killing a previous husband and defrauding a boyfriend she met online. She was known at that time as Melissa Russell.

“I wanted Fred to know the situation that he might be in. You know, he could be in danger,” Megeney said in an exclusive interview with CBC-TV’s the fifth estate. He said he asked the police to intercept Weeks and his new bride as they left a ferry in Newfoundland while on their honeymoon. But the police told him there was nothing they could do because “it would be an invasion of that lady’s privacy because she had no warrants, she had done her time.”

Four days later, after a short honeymoon in Newfoundland, Weeks was rushed to hospital from a bed and breakfast in Sydney, N.S., where he and his new bride had spent the night. Two days after that, police charged Melissa Weeks with attempting to murder her husband and with “administering a noxious thing.”

She is being held in custody, while her husband has recovered and returned home, where he is resting with his family.

Their encounter has opened another dramatic chapter in the life of a woman who has in the past claimed she was a battered wife, a devout Christian and a lonely widow looking for love on the internet. She was prone to whirlwind romances that ended with her partner’s serious illness or death.

In 1991, Weeks, then known as Melissa Stewart, was sentenced to six years for manslaughter in the death of her second husband, Gordon Stewart, on a deserted road near Halifax. He had been drugged and she ran over him twice with her car. She told police that her husband had raped her.

After serving two years of her sentence, she travelled to Florida where she met widower Robert Friedrich at a Christian retreat. They married in 2000 but his health faltered soon afterward and he died of cardiac arrest in 2002. No one was charged in his death, but his family believes the woman who is now known as Melissa Weeks was involved in both his illness and the sudden disappearance of his money.

Her next love affair was with Alex Strategos, a divorced man she met on On the day they moved in together, he was taken to hospital after hitting his head.

Police say his new love had siphoned money from Strategos’ bank account. Weeks served four years in a Florida prison for grand theft and forgery. She returned to Pictou County, N.S., in 2009 and settled into a quiet life of anonymity, promising in an interview with the fifth estate to “try to behave myself.”

But by all accounts, her romance with Fred Weeks was even more of a whirlwind than her previous affairs. Acquaintances describe him as a friendly, likeable man who was lonely and looking for a new partner 18 months after the death of his wife of 54 years. He enjoyed weekly games of cribbage, Friday night karaoke and Sunday night dances at the local Royal Canadian Legion branch. But he found his new bride just four doors down in the retirement residence in New Glasgow, N.S., where they both lived.

Megeney says the pair had been dating for just a few weeks when he received a call from his old friend who told him he wanted to get married right away. Megeney agreed to officiate the ceremony on Tuesday, Sept. 25, and the new couple drove off to start their honeymoon that afternoon.

“They both seemed happy,” Megeney told CBC News. “They were kind of bubbly. And I congratulated them both and Fred thanked me very profusely at the ceremony.”

Megeney said he learned the next day that his friend’s new wife had been featured in a fifth estate documentary about her life of crime and that the media had dubbed her the Internet Black Widow. He contacted police and asked them to stop his friend from taking a ferry to Newfoundland, where the couple was headed on their honeymoon.

The couple arrived at a bed and breakfast in North Sydney, Cape Breton, on Saturday morning. Cheryl Chambers, the guest home’s operator, said Fred Weeks looked pale and sickly. She said his wife explained that he had become ill during a rough ferry crossing from Newfoundland.

The next morning, after eating what Chambers described as a leisurely breakfast, the woman said she needed an ambulance to take her husband to hospital.

Police became suspicious a short time later, and Melissa Weeks was charged with attempted murder on Tuesday.