A Faribault man who went online and urged people to commit suicide while he watched has been sentenced to nearly six months in prison for assisting in a suicide. William Francis Melchert-Dinkel was convicted in September and sentenced today under a Minnesota law which prohibits assisted suicide.
“Assisted suicide is illegal in Minnesota, and if you violate the law you will be caught, convicted and imprisoned,” said Scott Fischbach, Executive Director of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL). “Justice has finally been served for these families, even though it has been long delayed. No more stays were granted; this criminal is headed to jail.”
Rice Co. District Court Judge Tom Neuville sentenced Melchert-Dinkel to 178 days in jail (to begin no later than Oct. 24) and fined him $3,000 after earlier finding him guilty of assisting the suicide of an English man and of attempting to assist in the suicide of a Canadian woman. The law allows imprisonment for up to 22 years and fines up to $44,000 combined for the two crimes of which Melchert-Dinkel was convicted.
Melchert-Dinkel admitted to posing as a depressed female nurse in online chat rooms using several names. He claimed that no treatment had helped ease his suffering and entered into suicide pacts with his victims. He urged each of them to use a webcam as they committed suicide, as he would, so that they would not be alone as they died. Melchert-Dinkel was not suicidal but secretly wanted to watch others kill themselves.
His victims include 32-year-old Mark Drybrough of Coventry, England, and 18-year-old Nadia Kajouji of Brampton, Ontario. Drybrough hanged himself in his home in 2005. Kajouji jumped into a frozen river and drowned in 2008.
Melchert-Dinkel encouraged his victims to hang themselves and he gave them details about how to do so. He boasted online about watching the death of Drybrough. Melchert-Dinkel admitted he entered into about 10 suicide pacts and believed five killed themselves.
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Melchert-Dinkel was convicted in 2011 under Minnesota Statutes section 609.215, subdivision 1, which provides criminal penalties for anyone who “advises, encourages or assists” suicide. MCCL was instrumental in the passage of this protective law in 1992. The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled earlier this year in State v. Melchert-Dinkel that “advising” or “encouraging” suicide is protected speech under the First Amendment. The case was remanded to the lower court to rule on whether Melchert-Dinkel assisted in the suicides of Drybrough and Kajouji.
“Whatever their reasons, people who attempt to assist others in killing themselves need to be prevented from doing so,” Fischbach said. “Assisted suicide is a violent, inhuman act against an individual in desperate need of help. Vulnerable people need protections, including the medical and mental health care they need to live.”
Melchert-Dinkel plans to appeal his conviction.