EX-NURSE PLEADS NOT GUILTY TO ENCOURAGING SUICIDE
BY: Emily Gurnon
Prosecutors say William Melchert-Dinkel, 48, of Faribault, posed as a young female nurse on the Internet and offered sympathy, emotional support and instructions on suicide methods to urge others to end their lives.
In two cases, they did: Nadia Kajouji, 18, of Brampton, Ontario, and Mark Drybrough, 32, of Coventry, England, killed themselves after they corresponded online with Melchert-Dinkel, according to a criminal complaint filed in Rice County District Court.
Defense attorney Terry Watkins entered the plea on behalf of his client. He also moved that the case be dismissed on the grounds that the state of Minnesota lacks jurisdiction because the alleged suicide messages were received in England and Canada.
Rice County Attorney G. Paul Beaumaster, who is prosecuting the case, disagreed.
"The gist of the crime is the encouraging, the advice" regarding suicide, he said.
Rice County District Judge Thomas Neuville directed both sides to submit a memorandum on the issue by Dec. 10, and said he would take the matter under advisement Dec. 13. He has 60 days to make a decision after that.
Last week, the judge denied Melchert-Dinkel's motion to dismiss the charges on the grounds that the Internet communications were protected free speech.
Watkins asked the judge today to send that question to the state Court of Appeals. Neuville will take that under advisement as well.
A trial date has not yet been set. In the meantime, Beaumaster told the court that he and Watkins have been talking about meeting for a settlement conference.
On his way out of the courthouse, Melchert-Dinkel did not respond to reporters as he walked to his car.
Minnesota officials began investigating the case in March 2008. St. Paul police Sgt. William Haider, on assignment with the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, got information from a British woman that an "online predator" was encouraging people to hang themselves, according to the criminal complaint filed April 23.
Celia Blay of England told police the "predator" went by the online names "li dao," "falcon girl," and "cami." She said his real name was Bill Melchert-Dinkel.
Online Advice / In his Nov. 9 order denying Melchert-Dinkel's motion to dismiss the case, the judge included chilling excerpts of the online conversations.
An undated message from Mark Drybrough, posted to a suicide chat room, read:
"Does anyone have details of hanging methods where there isn't access to anything high up to tie the rope to...."
"Li dao" wrote back on July 1, 2005:
"Depending on how tall you are, preferably under 6 feet tall, you can easily hang from a door using the knob on one 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... It is very effective. I have trialed it 5 times now with very good results so I am using it for certain when I go."
"Li dao" to Drybrough, July 19, 2005: "I was going to ask you if there is a time line involved with your desire to die... I want to very badly and plan to soon but will stay here for you as long as possible. ... I have had several other friends I have communicated with that are suicidal ... (one) asked me if I could be with him when he died ... he had a web cam and asked if he could hang himself to death while I watched him on the web cam ... I realized he lived alone yada yada and did not want to die alone. In the end I watched him go and it was very peaceful and I was pretty pleased I could make this guy's last moments special for him... **hugs** Li."
Drybrough, July 23, 2005: "Hi, Li. I'm still here, I've had a few days where I've been feeling very ill, physically and mentally. ... It was good of you to write back, thank you... I keep holding on to the hope that things might change. Caught between being suicidal and considering it..."
Drybrough killed himself four days later. His sister found him hanging from a rope attached to a ladder.
'I Can Die Then Easily' / According to police, Nadia Kajouji, 18, also corresponded with Melchert-Dinkel, who referred to himself as "Cami."
One of their online chats, from March 6, 2008:
Nadia: How are you?
Cami: Umm, not too good hun, still suicidal, pretty bad... I've seen every method used at work as an emergency ward nurse. I know what does and don't work so that is why I chose hanging ...
Nadia: I am planning to attempt this Sunday.
Cami: Wow OK you want to use hanging too? Or can u?
Nadia: I'm going to jump.
Cami: Well, that is OK but most people puss out before doing that ...
Nadia: I want it to look like an accident. There's a bridge over the river where there's a break in the ice. The water is really rough right now and it should carry me back under the ice so I can't come up for air. And if drowning doesn't get me, hopefully hypothermia will.
Cami: OK otherwise I was gonna suggest hanging...
Nadia: I'll have my skates on. Hopefully it'll look like I fell through somewhere upstream.
Cami: OK I hope it works.... If you wanted to do hanging we could have done it together online so it would not have been so scary for you...
Nadia: Well if I puss out, I think we should do that.
Cami: OK that sounds good. I'm off Monday too. I can die then easily or any time for that matter. I want to bad. I got rope and stuff ready. Do you have a web cam?
Cami: OK well if it comes down to hanging I can help you with it ... proper positioning of the rope is very important ...
Nadia: ... it's a big relief to be able to talk to someone about it.
Cami: Kewl thanx.
They chatted again March 9, 2008. Nadia Kajouji told her roommate later that night that she was going skating.
Her body was found April 20, 2008, in the Rideau River in Ottawa near the university that she attended.