published Friday, August 8th, 2014

Minnesota prosecutors seek conviction for sending emails urging people to commit suicide

William Melchert-Dinkel, right, and his attorney Terry Watkins leave court on Aug. 8, 2014, in Faribault, Minn.
William Melchert-Dinkel, right, and his attorney Terry Watkins leave court on Aug. 8, 2014, in Faribault, Minn.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

FARIBAULT, Minn. — Prosecutors in Minnesota argued Friday that a former nurse should be convicted of assisting suicide for sending emails and other online communications in which he urged two people to kill themselves and gave them information on how to do it.

William Melchert-Dinkel, 52, of Faribault, was back in court more than three years after he was convicted of encouraging suicides. The Minnesota Supreme Court earlier this year reversed those convictions, saying the state's law against encouraging or advising suicides was too broad.

The high court however upheld part of the law that makes it a crime to assist someone's suicide, and attorneys for both sides returned to Rice County District Court to argue over whether Melchert-Dinkel's conduct qualified.

Melchert-Dinkel was originally convicted in 2011 in the deaths of Nadia Kajouji, 18, of Brampton, Ontario, and Mark Drybrough, 32, of Coventry, England. Kajouji jumped into an icy river in 2008 and Drybrough hanged himself in 2005.

Evidence at that trial showed Melchert-Dinkel was obsessed with suicide and sought out depressed people online, posing as a suicidal female nurse, faking compassion and offering detailed instructions on how they could kill themselves. Police said he told them he did it for "the thrill of the chase."

In an hourlong hearing Friday, Assistant Rice County Attorney Terence Swihart said the state Supreme Court had defined "assist" as providing a person with what they need to commit suicide. Melchert-Dinkel met that definition by providing information, he argued, according to the Faribault Daily News (http://bit.ly/1sFCW7x ).

"He turned Kajouji from someone who was terrified to die into someone who killed herself. He provided Nadia Kajouji with what she needed to commit suicide. ... He dissuaded Drybrough from using other methods, such as overdosing, which was his preferred method, because it's unpredictable, something he knew as a nurse."

Defense attorney Terry Watkins said that while Melchert-Dinkel encouraged the suicides, he didn't have a knowing role in the commission of the acts and there is no evidence that his advice led to the suicides.

"There was no nexus between what (Kajouji) did and what (Melchert-Dinkel) said," said Watkins. "Although on its face Drybrough looks like a case involving assisting, it's not. He had decided on hanging as a second method long before he met Mr. Melchert-Dinkel."

Evidence presented earlier in the case included emails in which Melchert-Dinkel gave Drybrough details on how to hang himself, stating "just a sturdy knot is very much all one needs." Internet chats with Kajouji suggest he posed as a compassionate, suicidal woman who promised she would die shortly after Kajouji. In one conversation, he allegedly told her hanging would be better than jumping, and: "im just tryin to help you do what is best for you not me."

District Judge Thomas Neuville took the case under advisement and was to issue a decision within 30 days.

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