Alex Strategos was lonely and looking for love when he met Melissa Friedrich, the so-called “Internet Black Widow,” on an online dating service.
They chatted, and then she came to meet him at his Florida home. They went out for dinner and she moved in right away.
Mr. Strategos, a divorced and retired accountant from Pittsburgh, was smitten with the Canadian woman he had just met. He described her as a “very classy lady.”
In an interview on Tuesday from Pinellas Park, Fla., the 81-year-old also said she was a “fine actress.”
During their relationship, he signed over power of attorney to her, which enabled her to take $18,000 from him. In 2005, Ms. Friedrich pleaded guilty to charges including grand theft from a person 65 years or older, forgery and using a forged document. She served five years in a Florida jail.
“Then she was shipped back to Canada and I thought she lived happily ever after and that was it,” Mr. Strategos said.
Not quite. Ms. Friedrich, 77, who is now known as Melissa Weeks, was charged in Sydney, N.S., on Tuesday with attempted murder and “administering a noxious thing.”
She appeared in provincial court and was remanded in custody until Friday for a show-cause hearing. The remand warrant stipulates that she is not to have any contact with Fred Weeks, her new husband, except through legal counsel.
The charges, according to a release from Cape Breton Regional Police, result from “an investigation into the well-being check on a 75-year-old New Glasgow male, who was admitted to the North Sydney General Hospital.”
According to news reports, Mr. Weeks became ill when the couple were on their honeymoon and was taken to the Cape Breton hospital. (The couple lives in New Glasgow.) Police were called “as a result of suspicion around the man’s illness,” the police report says. Police say a drug was found in his system, but would not identify it.
“Further investigation led police to believe the man’s spouse could be responsible for his illness,” the report says.
Police had discovered her criminal past. In 1991, Ms. Friedrich was convicted of manslaughter in the death of a former husband, Gordon Stewart. Media reports say the couple was living in Dartmouth when she ran over him twice with her car and that he had drugs in his system at the time. She was sentenced to six years in prison and was released in 1994. In June, 2000, she married Robert Friedrich, according to a news report, and he died two years later.
In Florida, Mr. Strategos, who first heard about the charges from the media, asked about the health of Mr. Weeks, wondering if he is going to “be allright.”
“Good,” he said when told Mr. Weeks has been released from hospital. Mr. Strategos is in a wheelchair and says he hasn’t had any other relationships since Ms. Friedrich.
“She knew how to sweet-talk everybody,” he recalls. During their time together, he didn’t know much about her background or ask about it. Nor has he ever been to Canada.
He said that he also began feeling ill when he was with Ms. Friedrich and had to be hospitalized several times.
“While I was in the hospital one time, I was very weak and she brought two of my neighbours over to get a power of attorney signed, which I did, and that’s how she got all of my money,” he said, adding the amount was $18,000. He said the bank reimbursed him later.
Mr. Strategos believes that he was given “some kind of drug” in his dish of ice cream. It wasn’t until he was put into a rest home that a drug – benzodiazepine – was found in his system and his son became suspicious.
His son’s girlfriend had a connection with a local police detective. “And that’s how it all started,” he said of the criminal case.
Reflecting on that time, he says now that he doesn’t think about his relationship with Ms. Friedrich. “It’s something that happened and I came out of it allright. That was it. … I lived through it.”