A judge on Wednesday sentenced a Minnesota man to nearly a year in jail for encouraging two people he corresponded with over the Internet to kill themselves.
William Melchert-Dinkel, who was convicted of two counts of aiding suicide for encouraging an English man and Canadian woman he met online to kill themselves, was sentenced to 360 days in jail.
Judge Thomas Neuville's sentence was far less than the maximum 15 years Melchert-Dinkel could have gotten on each count, but more severe than a pre-sentence investigation that anticipated probation. Neuville compared Melchert-Dinkel's conduct to stalking, describing it as calculated, intentional, and fraudulent.
But he also said that while Melchert-Dinkel's conduct was directly related to the deaths, he wasn't the sole reason they died.
Melchert-Dinkel wiped tears from his eyes as the judge sentenced him. In a statement read by his attorney, he apologized and said he felt remorse.
Prosecutors say Melchert-Dinkel was obsessed with suicide and hanging and sought out potential victims online. They say he posed as a suicidal female nurse to win his victims' trust, then entered false suicide pacts and offered detailed instructions on how people could take their own lives.
Court documents say Melchert-Dinkel, a former nurse from the southern Minnesota town of Fairbault, told police he did it for the "thrill of the chase." He acknowledged participating in online chats about suicide with up to 20 people and entering into fake suicide pacts with about 10 people, five of whom he believed killed themselves.
Melchert-Dinkel declined a jury trial, leaving Neuville to decide whether he was guilty. He was convicted in the death of Mark Drybrough, 32, of Coventry, England, who hanged himself in 2005; and in the death of Nadia Kajouji, 18, of Brampton, Ontario, who jumped into a frozen river in 2008.