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We go to the doctor’s office when we need help, support, or medical care. People who met a licensed practical nurse (LPN), William Francis Melchert-Dinkel, online didn’t find those things. On the outside, everything looked fine. Melchert-Dinkel was unassuming to look at – just a married father with two children.
Although he worked as a nurse, his online persona was destructive was anything but caring and would have deadly consequences. Learn how 36-year-old Mark Drybrough and 20-year-old Nadia Kajouji were found dead and how Melchert-Dinkel played a part in their deaths.
Imagine that you or a loved one was in emotional distress and reached out for support, online. You would hope that you’d encounter encouragement and kindness. Across the web, chatrooms form for almost every malady, including suicide support prevention and chat. Melchert-Dinkel would find these chatrooms.
He didn’t enter them as himself. Instead, he created a persona of a depressed woman in her 20’s or 30’s. He used aliases such as “Cami D” and “falcongirl” and would try and coax people into carrying out their suicidal urges, convincing them that heaven would be better.
This is the true story of how one man played a part in the deaths of many people, using only his computer and web chat. It is not only a theory set forth by a team of prosecutors; Melchert-Dinkel has even admitted it. According to his affidavit with the courts, over the length of 4 to 5 years, he encouraged dozens of people to kill themselves.
His method of choice?
Death by hanging. He suggests that at least five people ultimately did kill themselves after his online insistence.
Nadia Kajouji was one of them. She was a mere 20 years old when she went to university at Ottawa’s Carleton University and became depressed being away from her family. Unfortunately, she had met Melchert-Dinkel online where he posed as a woman her age and supplied her with instructions on how to kill herself by hanging. He told her to capture her final moments on a webcam, so he (posing as a “she”) and others in a suicide pact could watch.
“I wonder how it will feel about dying,” Kajouji asked Melchert-Dinkel, who was using the alias “Cami D”.
Her question came days before she would go missing. The character Cami D, who had already suggested their suicide pact, answered, “Nice”.
Ultimately, Kajouji jumped to her death via a bridge above the Rideau River in the year 2008 and was found drowned. Not only did Kajouji speak with Melchert-Dinkel on the days leading up to her suicide jump, but also the day of. The police in Ottawa did not charge Melchert-Dinkel, as Canada has “assisted suicide” laws which gave him an easy out from criminal charges.
Meanwhile, 32-year-old IT technician from Coventry, England, Mark Drybrough, was found dead, by hanging, in July 2005. This was after he had suffered a nervous breakdown and come into contact with Melchert-Dinkel online, under the persona of “Falcongirl” and “Li Do”. Since Drybrough had been in correspondence with Melchert-Dinkel, leading up to his death, police charged him with counseling him on how to kill himself.
Thankfully, for other potential victims, in 2006, Celia Blay (who was retired as a British schoolteacher from Wiltshire) found out what was happening. A young friend of hers, in South America, told her that she had entered into a suicide pact with a young nurse. Blay was internet savvy enough to search out Melchert’s online identities and found that the same screen name she was talking to, had been involved in prior suicide pacts.
Finding this history, she provided it to her young, suicidal friend, which ultimately convinced the girl not to kill herself. Horrified, Blay collected evidence over the following year and posted warnings about suicide pacts from “Falcongirl” or “Cami D”. Local police in her area did not investigate, however.
In January of 2008, when Melchert-Dinkel was, sadly, still corresponding with Kajouji but not in time to save her, Blay (and a friend who was helping her) had a stroke of good luck. They set up a “sting” to catch whoever was behind the suicide pact accounts.
By gaining his trust, they traced the accounts back to Melchert’s IP address and residence in Minnesota. They even got him to admit to seeing a man die on webcam. They also found his real image in a webcam feed, when he was posing as “Cami D”.
While Blay submitted her affidavit on the matter to the F.B.I., she received no response. However, she had better luck with the Saint Paul Police Department and the Minnesota Internet Crimes Against Children, who took the case on.
Finally, in 2011, at age 49, Belcher-Dinkel was found guilty of 2 counts of “assisting suicide” for his role in the deaths of Mark Drybrough and Nadia Kajouji. The court agreed with the prosecutor’s charges, which is how he was initially convicted.
When the Minnesota Supreme Court reviewed the case in 2012, they overturned the convictions in 2012, since basing it on the particular state law used for the prosecution was unconstitutional. Melchert was held on remand and found guilty of one count of assisting suicide and another of attempting to help suicide.
Shockingly, while the two victims would never get a second chance at life, he did. He 2014, he received a suspected sentence from 3 years in prison to 360 days in jail and probation, as long as he abided by his probation terms. It has been reported that Belcher-only served 178 days in jail along with his ten-year probation, and continues to appeal his conviction.
Next time you’re online, think of this story and remember that we can never know who we are talking to on the other side of a computer screen. Beware of anyone who tries to get you to trust them without meeting. Fact checks names, profile pictures, screen names, and look at the online history by doing a detailed search at Social Catfish.
It is quick and costs the price of a cup of coffee! Blay, the former schoolteacher who finally took Belcher-Dinkel down, used her skills as a web sleuth to save lives and do just that. Protect yourself and those you love from liars, catfish, and criminals online.