On a cold winter day in March of 2008, a girl quietly disappeared from her dorm room at Carleton University. Weeks later, after the university, the city and her family mobilized to find her, her body was found floating in the frigid Rideau River, a victim of an apparent suicide.
But it wasn’t that simple. Nadia Kajouji was a beautiful and well-liked 19-year-old who had been suffering with increasingly severe depression ever since she moved in to her Ottawa dorm room the previous fall. Her friends knew some; so did her family. But what nobody knew was that Kajouji had been chatting online with a person she thought was a female nurse who was going to enter into a suicide pact with her: they would kill themselves together, the nurse said, discussing with Kajouji the best ways of carrying out the act.
The female nurse, unfortunately, didn’t exist. She was really William Melchert-Dinkel, 48, of Minnesota. And what Nadia didn’t know about him went far further than simply his identity. Melchert-Dinkel was found to have chatted with several depressed people online and entered into suicide pacts with as many as ten of them, with no intention of keeping up his end of the bargain. He appeared to seek out vulnerable people online and give them advice on the most painless and efficient way of killing themselves — hopefully on a webcam so that he could watch.
Melchert-Dinkel was charged and found guilty of the crime of aiding suicide in the cases of Nadia Kajouji and of Mark Drybrough from the UK. Yesterday, he was officially sentenced to six and a half years in jail and 15 years probation. However, most of that sentence is suspended: Melchert-Dinkel will spend 320 days in prison initially, then for the next ten years he will return to jail for two days on the anniversaries of Kajouji’s and Drybrough’s deaths.
While the unique sentence will certainly mean that Melchert-Dinkel will be forced to remember his victims — at least for the next ten years — the family of Kajouji says the sentence is too light. Melchert-Dinkel could certainly end up serving more time if he violates the conditions of his probation, but even if he does, Nadia will never come back.
Photo credit: ndanger on flickr