Alleged victim of 'Black Widow' holds no ill will as trial set to start

HALIFAX – A Nova Scotia man who was allegedly drugged by a woman dubbed the “Black Widow” says he holds no ill will towards the accused despite growing instances of memory loss since the incident last year.

Melissa Ann Shepard, 78, is scheduled to appear Monday for a judge-only trial at the Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Sydney on charges of attempted murder and administering a noxious substance to Fred Weeks.

The pair had married last September, a few weeks after they met each other. Four days after their wedding, Weeks, 75, was taken to hospital after losing consciousness while they were staying at a bed and breakfast in Sydney.

The marriage was later ruled invalid by the province’s Vital Statistics division after it said false information was provided on the marriage certificate.

Weeks said he is looking forward to the trial.

“People want her hung up from a tree and cut to pieces,” he said in an interview from his home in New Glasgow, N.S.

“I’m just very glad to get it over with and have it come to an end. I’m not worried about what she gets. Whatever she gets is what the judge will give her and that’s what she deserves.”

Weeks said he experienced memory lapses prior to the alleged incident, during which he was hospitalized with high levels of benzodiazepine, a tranquilizer. But he said his memory has deteriorated to the point where he forgets appointments and where he places things.

“I can’t remember like I used to,” he said.

He said he’d hoped to retain memories of what transpired after he and Shepard drove to Sydney with plans to travel to Newfoundland. The father of six adult children said he has had only a few flashbacks, and in one instance he forgot the recollection before he could write it down.

Weeks said a doctor at the hospital where he was taken told him it will take some time to know the long-term health consequences of consuming the benzodiazepine.

“I asked him how long will it last. He told me, ‘I don’t know, can’t tell.’ My own doctor told me the same thing,” he said.

“There’s nothing I can do except just wait.”

Police have said that Weeks and Shepard checked into Chamber’s Guest House Bed and Breakfast in Sydney on Sept. 28 when she told the innkeeper that they had a rough crossing on the ferry from Newfoundland and her husband wasn’t feeling well.

Court documents say that during a search of Shepard’s home in New Glasgow, police seized several bags and bottles of prescription drugs and a handwritten note about the immediate need to get power of attorney over Weeks’ finances.

The documents filed with the provincial court in Sydney say police took bottles containing seven different types of prescription tablets, along with several plastic bags with unidentified pills that were found in two purses.

Shepard acquired the “Black Widow” moniker due to her criminal record, which includes manslaughter and theft, linked to relationships with other men she met in Canada and the United States. She has been married several times and has gone by several different last names.

She was convicted of manslaughter in the death of her husband, Gordon Stewart, who she had drugged and run over twice with a car in 1991 outside Halifax. She served two years of a six-year sentence for that crime.

She was also sentenced in 2005 to five years in prison on seven counts of theft involving Alexander Strategos, a man in Florida she had met online. Investigators said she stole about US$20,000 from him.

Crown prosecutor Diane McGrath said she expects the case will not require the full two weeks that have been set aside. She declined comment on a report that there may be a plea agreement in the works.

“I can’t discuss anything like that at this point,” she said.

Defence lawyer Alan Nicholson did not return messages seeking comment.

Weeks said he will be relieved when the case is completed.

“I got no bitter feelings or anything like that. A lot of people think I’m right bitter because I almost died,” he said.

“Well, almost doesn’t count. Not to me anyway.”