A former Minnesota nurse was charged Friday with aiding the suicides of a British man and Canadian woman by allegedly encouraging them to kill themselves in Internet chat rooms.
William Melchert-Dinkel, 47, is charged under a rarely used state law that carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and a fine of $30,000.
Melchert-Dinkel is accused of encouraging the suicides of Mark Drybrough, 32, who hanged himself at his home in Coventry, England, in 2005; and Nadia Kajouji, 18, of Brampton, Ontario, who drowned in 2008 in a river in Ottawa, where she was studying at Carleton University.
Rice County Attorney Paul Beaumaster declined to comment on the case. When reached at his home in Faribault on Friday, Melchert-Dinkel told an Associated Press reporter he had no comment and ordered her off of his property. His first court appearance is scheduled for May 25.
'Thrill of the chase'
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."
He also "indicated his interest in death and suicide could be considered an obsession," the complaint said.
The Minnesota Board of Nursing, which revoked his license last June, said he encouraged numerous people to commit suicide and told at least one person his job as a nurse made him an expert on the most effective way to do it.
"Most important is the placement of the noose on the neck ... Knot behind the left ear and rope across the carotid is very important for instant unconsciousness and death," he allegedly wrote in one Web chat.
Legal experts have said prosecuting the case would be difficult on freedom-of-speech grounds because Melchert-Dinkel didn't physically help kill them, just allegedly encouraged them and gave technical directions. The decades-old state law does not specifically address situations involving the Internet or suicides that occur out of state.
Minnesota authorities began investigating in March 2008 when an anti-suicide activist in Britain alerted them that someone in the state was using the Internet to manipulate people into killing themselves. A state task force on Internet crimes searched his computer last May.
Melchert-Dinkel worked at various hospitals and nursing homes over the years and was cited several times for neglect and being rough with patients, according to the nursing board.
After his license was revoked, Melchert-Dinkel said he didn't think he'd be charged.
"Nothing is going to come of it," Melchert-Dinkel told the AP in October. "I've moved on with my life, and that's it."