Rice County authorities have moved against William Melchert-Dinkel, a Minnesota man who allegedly encouraged people online to kill themselves.
Using a little-used state law, the Faribault man has been charged with aiding the deaths of a Canadian woman and a British man.
Mark Drybrough, of Coventry, England, hanged himself in 2005, and 18-year-old Nadia Kajouji of Brampton, Ontario (shown above), drowned in Ottawa in 2008.
According to the Associated Press:
Investigators have said Melchert-Dinkel feigned compassion for those he chatted with, while offering step-by-step instructions on how to take their lives. The criminal complaint filed in the case said he told investigators he encouraged “dozens” of people to commit suicide and “characterized it as the thrill of the chase.”
But his apprehension has more to do with a grandmother who wouldn’t take “no” for an answer when law enforcement officials said “no.”
Four years ago a teenage friend admitted she had entered a death pact with a nurse. Hours before the planned suicide, Mrs Blay discovered the pact was with an internet user known as Li Dao, who had agreed to other pacts.
She convinced the teenager to delay her plans and the girl is alive today.
Mrs Blay contacted members of internet groups used by Li Dao and discovered she used the pseudonyms Falcon Girl and Cami D to persuade people to enter pacts in which they would hang themselves in front of webcams and watch each other die. At the crucial moment there was always a problem with Li Dao’s webcam so that it was just her watching.
“When I went to the police they just said if it bothers you, look the other way,” she said.
Li Dao turned out to be Melchert-Dinkel. The Wiltshire (UK) Times has an interesting profile of Mrs. Blay, dubbed Wiltshire’s “Miss Marple.”
The case also shines attention on one law enforcement agency that didn’t say “no.” It was the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, based out of the St. Paul police department that reviewed the cases and sent them to Rice County for prosecution.
Rice County’s prosecutor wouldn’t comment on the case today, but the challenge he faces is obvious: The First Amendment. Melchert-Dinkel didn’t physically assist in the suicides; he only posted comments on the Internet.
The charges against Melchert-Dinkel come from Minnesota statute 609.215:
Whoever intentionally advises, encourages, or assists another in taking the other’s own life may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than 15 years or to payment of a fine of not more than $30,000, or both.
It’s a law that appeared to have been motivated during heightened attention of physician-assisted suicide, and the exploits of Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who actually helped people kill themselves, rather than people who type things on Internet bulletin boards.
See more about the case in this CBC documentary.
A friend of Nadia Kajouji produced this memorial:
One of the messages she got before jumped off a bridge said:
“If you go to a home depot or menards or any kind of home improvement store, get yellow nylon rope about 8 feet or about 3.5 meters and about – inch thick or about 3 cm that is all you need and look around your apartment for somewhere to hang from …. I can help you with the cam when you need to.”
That allegedly was sent by Melchert-Dinke.