An elderly Nova Scotia woman who had garnered the nickname the "Internet Black Widow" for crimes involving men – including manslaughter – has been arrested in connection with the suspected murder attempt of her new spouse.
Cape Breton Regional Police would not confirm the identity of the 77-year-old woman they took into custody Monday, but neighbours at a New Glasgow seniors complex have identified her as Melissa Weeks.
Ms. Weeks, according to several local media reports, was previously known as Melissa Ann Friedrich and Melissa Stewart and had been convicted of manslaughter in the death of her husband, Gordon Stewart, in the 1990s in Nova Scotia.
According to neighbours, Ms. Weeks and her new husband, 75-year-old Fred Weeks, were on their honeymoon when he fell ill and was admitted to the North Sydney General Hospital. Cheryl Chambers, the operator of a bed and breakfast in North Sydney, said a couple named Fred and Millie Weeks checked in early Friday morning.
Ms. Chambers said Ms. Weeks told her they had travelled to Cape Breton from Newfoundland on the ferry. Ms. Chambers said Ms. Weeks came downstairs alone on Saturday morning and said her husband wasn't feeling well. Paramedics later arrived and took Mr. Weeks to the local hospital.
Doctors became suspicious about the circumstances behind the man's illness and alerted police on Sunday, said Desiree Vassallo, a communications adviser with the Cape Breton police.
As police began to investigate, they quickly realized the man's spouse appeared to match the identity of "a woman with a previous criminal history of fraud and manslaughter charges," police stated in a news release.
Betty Stephen, who lives in the same seniors complex as the Weeks, saw police arrest Ms. Weeks around noon Monday.
Police also searched Ms. Weeks' New Glasgow residence, about a three-hour drive from North Sydney.
Ms. Weeks' criminal history was known to many residents who lived in the five buildings that are part of Quinway Apartments: Her charges and convictions had been well documented by the media.
The Weeks married recently in a small ceremony at the seniors complex, neighbours said. They hadn't known each other for very long. Ms. Weeks moved in about a year ago, while Mr. Weeks arrived some time afterward, neighbour Pauline Chapman said.
She believes Mr. Weeks was aware of his wife's history.
"I suppose I thought he was being kind of reckless," said Ms. Chapman. "I'm not sure how long ago they met. It was a very short relationship."
Ms. Weeks reportedly returned to her New Glasgow residence around 7 p.m. Sunday, driving Mr. Weeks's car. The exact state of his health wasn't immediately known, but he remained in a hospital Monday. "Fred was a very pleasant person," Ms. Stephen said. "He was a great, great cheerful man and we all feel very bad about it."
Ms. Weeks was taken to Cape Breton Regional Police headquarters for questioning. Police said she would be held in custody overnight and appear in court Tuesday to face a charge of attempted murder.
After completing her manslaughter sentence in the 1990s, Ms. Weeks moved to Florida.
Then known as Melissa Ann Friedrich, she received a five-year prison sentence for theft and forgery in 2005 involving a man she met online. Two of the men she dated in Florida had fallen ill and one of them died, but no criminal charges were laid, according to the Halifax Chronicle Herald newspaper. After her release from a Florida jail in 2009, U.S. immigration officials sent her back to Canada.