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A.K.A: "Internet Black Widow"
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: "Black Widow"
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: April 27, 1991
Date of birth: May 16, 1935
Victim profile: Gordon Stewart, 44 (her husband)
Method of murder: Running over twice with their car
Location: Nova Scotia, Canada
Status: Sentenced to 6 years in prison on August 20, 1992
photo gallery
Linden MacIntrye interviews Melissa Friedric

Millie Weeks: The Black Widow of Benzodiazepene

April 28, 2013

By Kristal Hawkins -

“Millie” is back in the news again. The Canadian senior citizen has a rap sheet that earned her the nickname “the Black Widow” — a sobriquet that helps trace her crimes across the various aliases that her (not always legal) multiple marriages have provided. As Melissa Stewart, she was convicted of drugging, running over and killing her second husband while still married to the first. As Melissa Friedrich, she defrauded a third husband, who died under suspicious circumstances — then she drugged and defrauded another suitor. Most recently, Melissa Ann Weeks is accused of drugging her brand new groom in an attempt to kill him.

Her early story is simple enough. Born in Burnt Church, New Brunswick, in 1935, Millie moved to Ontario with her family when she was a teenager. In 1955 she met and married a factory worker, Russell Sheppard. They had two children.

Between 1970 and 1985 Melissa Ann Sheppard was convicted on a string of charges of false pretenses fraud, forgery and impersonation (and littering) in Toronto and in Georgetown, Prince Edward Island. But it wasn’t until she was 55 that she began her most serious crimes.

Overkill?: Give Him a Lethal Amount of Benzodiezapene, Hit Him With the Car, Hit Him With the Car Again

In 1988, living on Prince Edward Island, “Millie” took up with widower Gordon Stewart. She and Russell Sheppard weren’t divorced until May 1991, but she wed Stewart in ceremonies in Vancouver and Las Vegas in 1990.

Just before Christmas in 1990, Gordon Stewart, disoriented and foaming at the mouth, was admitted to the hospital. Lab tests showed a large amount of benzodiazepine, a psychoactive drug usually prescribed for insomnia or anxiety. Abuse can lead to overdose, ranging from deep sleep to death; in elderly patients, its side effects can mimic dementia.

At the time, the benzodiazepine didn’t arouse suspicion. Nor did the Stewarts’ tumultuous relationship reveal who the real danger was in this couple.

In 1991, Gordon pleaded guilty to assaulting Millie and he spent some time in jail. A judge issued a restraining order against him in March, but in April they moved together to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Their reconciliation didn’t last long.

On April 27, 1991, Melissa Stewart ran her husband over twice with their car. She reported the death only a few hours later. His autopsy showed a lethal amount of benzodiazepine.

During her trial, she said Stewart had raped her. She was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to six years. At the Prison for Women in Kingston, Ontario, she formed a convict support group (once released, she would found Project Another Chance, a counseling line for women prisoners) — and she found herself a star of the National Film Board’s When Women Kill feature.

Melissa Stewart was released in 1994. And she was lonely; or broke.

Another Chance at Love: More Benzodiazepene, Another Death, Plenty of Alleged Fraud

In April 2000, Melissa Stewart wrote to a Florida widower and retired engineer who she had spotted in a Christian Retreat newsletter. She enclosed a photo, and she told Robert Friedrich flat-out that she believed God wanted them to get married. He invited her to visit him the next month, and within three days of her arrival they’d agreed to get married. The wedding was in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia on June 23, 2000; she then joined him in Florida.

Over the next two years, his family noticed that Robert increasingly suffered from slurred speech and faltering health. In July 2002, one of his sons complained to the Elder Abuse Line, blaming Millie for his father’s decline. And around that same time, Robert rewrote his will, leaving out his sons and making Millie the sole beneficiary of his full estate.

Robert Friedrich died of cardiac arrest on December 16, 2002. There was no autopsy. Millie continued to cash his Social Security checks before returning to Prince Edward Island in 2004. The Social Security Administration specifies that benefits are due only through the last full month that the beneficiary lives.

Friedrich’s family later saw new reports that made them wondered whether his wife had caused his death. The authorities also regarded Melissa Friedrich with suspicion.

Records show that she held multiple prescriptions for Lorazepam, a potent, fast-acting benzodiazepine. Florida’s Manatee County Sheriff investigated her for “doctor shopping” and prescription fraud, but by the end of 2004 the county decided it didn’t have enough evidence to prosecute her.

By then, Canada’s Department of Human Resources Development had started its own investigation into Melissa Friedrich’s possible involvement in Old Age Security fraud, alleging that she’d bilked the government of over $30,000. But in 2009, they too dropped their investigation.

Meanwhile, Millie met another man.

More Love, More Benzo, More Money

In November 2004, Melissa Friedrich returned to Florida to meet with Alex Strategos, one of several men with whom she’d corresponded on Not only did she move into the divorced Pittsburgh accountant’s Pinellas Park apartment the night of their first date, but the usual pattern of accidents and ill-health began that very night when he went to the hospital with a head injury. This was the first of his eight hospital visits during their brief relationship; during one of them, he gave her power of attorney.

Strategos later suggested that his beloved might have slipped a drug into his ice cream on that initial dinner date; she served him ice cream most nights. His son noticed benzodiazepine showed up on his father’s blood tests during a January 2005 hospital visit; it was not a drug his father’s doctor had prescribed.

When the son also noticed that $18,000 was missing from his father’s accounts, he called the police. They went after the little old lady.

In March of that year, Melissa Friedrich accepted a plea agreement: grand theft, forgery, and five years in prison.

In 2009, she was freed and deported to Canada. She moved into a seniors complex in Nova Scotia — and eventually started more trouble.

Love! Also, Benzodiazepene, and Attempted Murder

In September 2012, Melissa Friedrich’s whirlwind courtship with a neighbor culminated in a yet another marriage; within a week of the wedding, the 77-year-old bride would be charged with the attempted murder of the groom.

Fred Weeks, 75, had lost his wife of half a century just 18 months earlier. He kept himself busy with cribbage games and karaoke outings, but he was lonely. He welcomed Millie’s attention, marrying her on September 25 after knowing her just a month, but at least one friend was suspicious. George Megeny, a justice of the peace, had seen Millie on a CBC documentary about her alleged crimes, “The Widow’s Web.” Megeny performed their marriage ceremony, but he asked the police to intercept the couple on their way to the ferry that would start their New Foundland honeymoon trip, and to warn Weeks about his bride’s pattern of trouble with the law; unsurprisingly, the police refused to involve themselves in this errand.

Melissa and Fred Weeks checked into the Chambers Guesthouse in North Sydney, Nova Scotia, on September 28th. Millie complained of a rough ferry crossing, and said that her husband wasn’t feeling well. The innkeeper thought she heard someone fall in the night, but Millie insisted everything was fine. The next morning she asked the innkeeper to call an ambulance for Fred — but she insisted on finishing her breakfast first. The innkeeper called for an ambulance — and the police. Paramedics found Fred Weeks on the floor of the couple’s room in the bed & breakfast, weak and disoriented.

On September 30, Weeks’ son called the police, and reported that hospital staff had told him that his new stepmother insisted that Fred Weeks suffered from dementia, and that he had no children. Weeks also has a daughter, and the children agree that their father’s only medical problem is high cholesterol, but police soon found that Millie had also told her neighbors at the Quinway Apartments seniors villa that Weeks was childless and struggled with dementia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and that he’d had multiple heart attacks.

Millie seemed to be up to her old tricks. Fred Weeks survived the episode and was released, but tests showed a high dose of benzodiazepine in his body. Police confined his wife and searched their apartment. They found 144 tablets of Lorazepam, a small amount of Temazepam, three unlabeled empty bottles, prescriptions from five different doctors, and a suspicious tub of ice cream that would have to be analyzed.

Fred Weeks is still piecing together what happened; he remembers little between the wedding and waking up in the hospital, and he isn’t convinced that they even took that ferry. He’s learned that there was a mistake on their marriage license, and that it means they weren’t in fact married.


Timeline: The Life of Melissa Friedrich

May 16, 1935
Melissa is born in Burnt Church, New Brunswick.

Melissa moves to Ontario, lives with aunt and completes high school through evening correspondence at Stafford College.

Melissa meets future husband Russell Shephard -- factory worker. She marries Russell Shephard and has two children.

Melissa is charged with over thirty counts of fraud and forgery while in Ontario and Prince Edward Island. She is convicted and spends over five years in jail.

December 1985
Melissa is released from detention and returns to PEI.

Melissa meets Gordon Stewart, a widower, who is selling some property on PEI. They begin a romantic relationship even though she is still married to Russell Shephard.

Melissa and Gordon Stewart marry in Las Vegas and then later have another ceremony in Vancouver.

December 23, 1990
At their apartment in PEI, Gordon becomes delusional, and two hours later he's discovered frothing at the mouth on the floor. He's taken to the hospital where benzodiazepine is found in his system.

Gordon is charged with and pleads guilty to assaulting Melissa. He serves time in jail. She visits with him in jail.

March 26, 1991
A probation order for Gordon stipulates that he is to have no contact with Melissa. Over next few weeks, she initiates contact upon several occasions.

April 20, 1991
Melissa and Gordon Stewart relocate to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.

April 27, 1991
Melissa runs over and kills her husband on a deserted road. Three hours later she reports his death. Non-prescribed benzodiazepine (valium and restoril) is found in his system. It's judged to be enough to kill him. She claims he sexually assaulted her. Medical tests do not confirm any rape.

Upon his death, Melissa applies for pension benefits from the Department of National Defense and Canada Pension.

May 1991
Melissa and Russell Shephard's divorce is finalized.

May 26, 1992
Melissa is convicted of manslaughter in the death of her husband Gordon Stewart, 44, in Halifax.

August 20, 1992
Melissa is sentenced to 6 years in jail.

She forms a support group for women at the Prison for Women in Kingston, Ontario.

March 1994
The National Film Board documentary "When Women Kill" airs. Melissa is featured as one of the prime characters.

Melissa is released from prison with full parole.

May 1996
Melissa sets up a toll free counseling line for women having trouble in jail. It's called "Project Another Chance".

Robert Friedrich, a retired engineer living in Florida, grieves the death of his wife of 53 years.

April 2000
Melissa sees Robert Friedrich at a Christian Retreat and later sends him a letter saying "God wants us to be married." The correspondence includes her picture.

May 2000
Friedrich responds to her letter. Melissa returns to Florida to visit Robert Friedrich. Three days after she arrives, they are engaged.

June 23, 2000
Melissa and Robert marry in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia at the interfaith Wedding Chapel.

March 22, 2001
The Friedrich family notices that Robert's health is faltering, his speech is slurred, and he's often in the hospital.

May 28, 2001
Melissa obtains two prescriptions for lorazepam. Police records show that upon six occasions, Melissa got drugs from one doctor and then within thirty days of the first prescription received another from a different doctor.

July 2002
One of Robert's sons, Bob Friedrich, calls the Elder Abuse Line and launches a complaint against Melissa's care of his father.

Robert Friedrich rewrites his will making Melissa the sole beneficiary.

December 16, 2002
Less than two years after they marry, Robert Friedrich dies. The apparent cause is cardiac arrest. Friedrich's death certificate is confirmed by a doctor over the telephone. The doctor did not examine the body.

Melissa continues to receive Robert Friedrich's social security cheques.

December 20, 2002
The cremation certificate is issued and no autopsy or toxicology reports are done.

May 2003
Melissa returns to PEI, but over the next year she will travel back and forth between Canada and the U.S.

September 2003
In Florida, the Manatee County Sheriff investigates Melissa for six counts of doctor shopping (prescription fraud) from March 1, 2001 to December 1, 2002.

January 2004
Human Resource Development Canada launches an investigation of Melissa, specifically crimes relating to the Old Age Security Act believed to have occurred between 2000-2003.

September 2004
Melissa initiates internet contact with as many as twenty men from across the United States and Canada.

October 20, 2004
Dennis Friedrich receives a letter from State's Attorney Office in Florida. The investigation is completed concerning the crime of doctor shopping. The State Attorney chooses not to proceed because they feel they will be unable to prove the charges against Melissa.

October 2004
RCMP visit Melissa at her home in PEI to ask her questions about their investigation into Old Age Security fraud.

Early November 2004
As RCMP prepare to lay charges, Melissa drives to Florida to meet Alex Strategos, a divorced 73-year-old diabetic, who she had been corresponding with on

November 5, 2004
Melissa has dinner with Alex Strategos in Pinellas Park, Florida and moves into his house the same night. Later that night Alex is taken to hospital after falling down and hitting his head.

Over a two-month period, Alex is hospitalized eight times.

December 28, 2004
Alex signs over power of attorney to Melissa, while he is in the hospital.

January 2005
Alex Strategos' son Dean sees unprescribed drugs (benzodiazepine) in his father's medical report and blood tests. He also discovers around $18,000 missing from his father's bank account.

January 6, 2005
Pinellas Park Police arrest Melissa and charge her with exploitation of the elderly, theft and forgery. Police say she coerced Strategos to give her power of attorney and then she siphoned off his money into her own bank account.

February 1, 2005
Nova Scotia RCMP issue a warrant for Melissa's arrest. She's charged with defrauding the government of Canada of $30,348.54 over a four year period. The fraud offences allegedly took place between July 1997 and October 2003.

March 14, 2005
Scheduled date of Melissa's pre-trial.

March 14, 2005
Melissa Friedrich pleads guilty to seven charges related to the Strategos case, including three counts of grand theft from a person 65 years or older, two counts of forgery and two counts of using a forged document. As part of a plea agreement, she's sentenced to five years in jail.

April 2, 2009
The Crown Attorney's office in Halifax drops Old Age Security fraud charges against Melissa, stating that they have not received enough evidence to proceed.

April 4, 2009
Melissa is released from prison in Florida and deported to Canada. She currently lives on her own in a seniors' apartment building in Nova Scotia and has so far made good on a promise to stay out of trouble.

September, 2012
Melissa Shepard was charged with attempted murder and administering a noxious thing -- listed in court documents as the tranquillizer benzodiazepine. She was charged after her new husband, Fred Weeks, suddenly fell ill at a bed and breakfast in Cape Breton in late September. The couple had been married just a few days before the 75-year-old fell ill. Their union was later ruled invalid by the province's Vital Statistics division after it said false information was provided on the marriage certificate.

June 10th, 2013
Melissa pleads guilty to administering a noxious thing and failing to provide necessity of life.


Internet 'Black Widow' pleads guilty to lesser charge

June 10, 2013

A 78-year-old woman nicknamed the Internet Black Widow for her ability to persuade grieving widowers to marry her pleaded guilty today in Sydney, N.S., to administering a noxious thing and failing to provide the necessaries of life.

Melissa Ann Shepard had been charged with attempted murder and administering a noxious thing — listed in court documents as the tranquillizer benzodiazepine — after 75-year-old Fred Weeks fell ill at a bed and breakfast in Cape Breton in late September.

She is also known as Melissa Friedrich, and was charged under the last name Weeks.

The couple had been married just a few days before the 75-year-old fell ill. Their union was later ruled invalid by the province's Vital Statistics division after it said false information was provided on the marriage certificate.

Twelve days had been set aside for a trial.

Crown prosecutor Diane McGrath also said the remainder of the time scheduled for the judge-only trial will not be needed.

Shepard's sentencing will take place Tuesday in Sydney, N.S. The maximum sentence is two years for administering a noxious thing and 18 months for failing to provide the necessaries of life.

Criminal past

The woman has a long history with the law.

In 1991, she was convicted of manslaughter and served two years of a six-year jail term after killing her husband, Gordon Stewart, of P.E.I., on a deserted road near Halifax. Stewart was heavily drugged when she ran him over twice with a car.

Shortly after she was released from jail, she travelled to Florida and met Robert Friedrich at a Christian retreat.

They married in Nova Scotia in 2000. A year later, Friedrich's family noticed his health was faltering. He had mysterious fainting spells and slurred speech and was in and out of hospitals.

Friedrich's family also alleged his money had started to disappear.

Friedrich died in 2002 of cardiac arrest. No one was charged.

In 2005, she was sentenced to five years in prison for a slew of charges stemming from a relationship she had with another Florida man she met online.

She pleaded guilty to seven charges including three counts of grand theft from a person 65 years or older, two counts of forgery and two counts of using a forged document.


Melissa Ann Friedrich: Canada's Black Widow

October 12, 2012

In 1988, in Ontario, Canada, the then 52-year-old Melissa Ann, married to a man named Russell Shephard, met Gordon Stewart, a factory worker with two children whose wife had passed away. They had an affair, Melissa divorced Mr. Shepard, and became Mrs. Stewart.

On April 22, 1991, after drugging Gordon Stewart with benzodiazepine (valium and restoril), Melissa drove him to a remote stretch of highway near the Halifax airport, pulled his body out of the car, and ran over him twice. (Mr. Stewart was probably dead from the lethal dose of drugs before she dumped him onto the road.) Three hours later, Melissa reported the incident to the police, claiming she had killed her husband while he was attempting to rape her.

Melissa's account of her second husband's death, in the context of an attempted rape, made no sense. Moreover, Mr. Stewart, before his death, had written a letter in which he chronicled how Melissa had cheated on him, repeatedly lied, and drained his bank account. The authorities also found traces of the deadly drug in the victim's system.

In the spring of 1992, a jury in Kingston, Ontario, found Melissa Stewart guilty of manslaughter. The judge sentenced her to six years in prison. While incarcerated, Melissa formed a support group for wives who had been abused by their husbands. (She should have formed a class on how to find husbands to murder for their bank accounts and inheritance.) After serving just two years of the manslaughter sentence, the homicidal sociopath became a nationally known spokesperson for the battered wife syndrome.

In April 2001, while looking for a husband to kill at a Christian retreat in Ontario, Melissa Stewart met 83-year-old Robert Edmund Friedrich. The next day, the 66-year-old black widow sent him a letter in which she wrote: "God wants us to be married." Within days of that letter, the couple tied the knot.

When Mr. Friedrich died of cardiac arrest one year after marrying Melissa, she emptied his bank account of $400,000, and continued to receive his social security checks. The happy widow arranged to have Mr. Friedrich hastily cremated before his body could be autopsied. Because of his age, and the quick cremation, notwithstanding some suspicion of foul play, Melissa was not charged in connection with this the old man's death.

In March 2004, about two years after Mr. Friedrich's passing, Melissa hooked up with a Florida man through an Internet dating site. A few days after the online meeting, she flew to 73-year-old Alexander Strategos' home in Pinellas Park. The next day, the Canadian moved into the recently divorced man's house. Not long after that, they were married.

During the next eight months, Mr. Strategos, feeling weak, kept falling and hitting his head, injuries that required eight hospitalizations. His doctors couldn't figure out what was ailing him. During his residence at a rest home, just before he died in January 2005, Mr. Strategos signed over power of attorney to his wife.

Mr. Strategos' son became suspicious when he discovered, in his father's medical papers, that he had died with the unprescribed drug benzodiazepine in his system. Melissa had also withdrawn $20,000 from her deceased husband's bank account. On January 6, 2005, police arrested Melissa Friedrich on charges of grand theft and forgery. She pleaded guilty to these offenses, and was sentenced to five years. On April 4, 2009, upon her release from the Florida prison, the authorities deported her back to Canada. Melissa never faced charges in connection with the mysterious death of Alexander Strategos.

On September 28, 2012, Melissa Friedrich, now 77, married Fred Weeks, a 75-year-old from New Glasgow, New Brunswick. While honeymooning a few days later on Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Mr. Weeks fell ill at their bed and breakfast, and had to be hospitalized. After nurses noticed signs that the patient had been injected with something, hospital personnel alerted the police. On October 1, Fred Weeks left the hospital a weaker but wiser man.

The day after her husband walked out of the hospital, the police arrested Melissa on the charge of administering a noxious substance. No doubt her criminal record, and the fates of her former husbands influenced the decision to take her into custody. The judge, at her October 5, 2012 bail hearing, denied her bond. Time will tell if this woman has poisoned her last man.


Widow Accused Of Poisoning Boyfriend

Jan 12, 2005

PINELLAS PARK - Melissa Ann Stewart was convicted of killing one husband by running him over with a car in Nova Scotia to collect his pension benefits, prosecutors there said.

She wed again, to a retired electrical engineer in his 80s living in Bradenton. During the 14 months they were married, Robert Friedrich's will was changed to make her the sole beneficiary of his estate, according to court documents and family members.

Then he died.

Stewart - who had become Melissa Ann Friedrich - was not charged.

Now, Friedrich is accused of slowly drugging an older paramour in his Pinellas Park condominium. By the time Pinellas Park police got involved, Friedrich had persuaded Alex Strategos, 73, to sign a power- of-attorney document.

Police say she siphoned more than $18,000 from his investment accounts.

Strategos, a diabetic with a history of medical problems, survived. He is recuperating in an undisclosed nursing home, said Pinellas Park Detective Mike Lynch.

Friedrich, 69, was arrested Thursday and charged with exploitation of the elderly. Bail was set at $10,000, but the Department of Homeland Security has placed a hold on Friedrich because she lied about her felony conviction in Canada when trying to enter the United States through Orlando last year.

She was deported at the time but later returned to Florida, Lynch said.

Pinellas Park and Pinellas County authorities know of the 1992 manslaughter conviction in Nova Scotia, as well as what prosecutors now describe as the unexpected death of Robert Friedrich in Bradenton on Dec. 16, 2002.

"We're going to conduct an investigation into all circumstances'' surrounding that, said Bruce Bartlett, Pinellas- Pasco chief assistant state attorney. "We are aware of her history as relayed to us by other authorities, and we'll see how that ties into this situation.''

Authorities wonder if there are other cases, and Tuesday evening police issued a plea for information. Specifically, detectives are interested in Friedrich's activities from 1997 until this year.

Anyone with information is asked to call Lynch at (727) 541-0797 or police Sgt. Paul Andrews at (727) 541-0793.

"Are there any other victims out there - local, statewide or across the nation - that she's done this to?'' Lynch said.

For now, there is only the exploitation charge. Lynch said Friedrich met Strategos through AmericanSingles.Com, an online matchmaking service, before returning to Florida after her deportation.

Then she moved into Strategos' condominium at 7070 Versailles St.

Lynch said Strategos' son discovered what was going on with his father's finances and contacted authorities.

To some neighbors, Friedrich described herself as Strategos' wife. During the past three months, the same period Friedrich is accused of running her scheme, they noticed paramedics responding to calls to the condominium, with at least one resulting in a trip to the hospital.

Neighbor Dottie Gibbons remembers one visit to Strategos in the hospital. That day, Friedrich gave him a kiss, said she loved him, then pulled out paperwork for him to sign.

"He just looked so miserable that day, and I had never seen him look like that. He's always been really jolly,'' Gibbons said.

"I went over to the bed on the other side and said, `How're you doing Alex?' and he said, `... They want me to go to a nursing home.' ''

The Canada Slaying

Friedrich, who then went by the name Stewart, was charged with second-degree murder in the April 27, 1991, death of her husband, Gordon Russell Stewart, according to news accounts of her case.

Prosecutors said she gave her 44-year-old husband a combination of pills, booze and rubbing alcohol that would have made him unconscious. Then, they said, she ran over him with her Chevrolet Cavalier on a dirt road near Halifax International Airport.

Her alleged motive was to collect his pension benefits.

Defense attorneys contended she accidentally backed over him in a rush to escape after he raped her in the woods beside the road. They portrayed Gordon Stewart as an alcoholic, abusive husband.

A judge told jurors that if they believed she had intended to kill her husband, Stewart should be convicted of second-degree murder. But if they believed it was an accident, they should convict her of manslaughter.

They found her guilty of manslaughter, and she was sentenced to six years in prison.

She had told authorities her husband forced her at knifepoint to drive around all day before sexually assaulting her, published reports said.

But a physical exam showed no evidence of a sexual assault, prosecutors said, and there was no dirt on her clothes. A tracking dog could find no signs of anyone being in the woods where she claimed she was raped.

At the time, Stewart had 30 convictions for fraud, false pretenses and impersonation, dating between 1970 and 1985, according to The Daily News in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Another Husband

About a year after his wife of 53 years died of breast cancer, Robert Friedrich met Melissa Stewart, who was visiting Florida from Canada, according to a lawsuit filed against her by two of Friedrich's sons.

The two started writing and talking on the telephone and quickly were married, said Karen Friedrich, Robert Friedrich's daughter-in-law. They applied for a marriage license in October 2001.

By the end of December 2002, Robert Friedrich was dead. According to the lawsuit, his wife had depleted his accounts through spending and transfers to herself.

Before her arrival, Robert Friedrich had intended to divide his estate among his three sons, says the lawsuit, filed in April 2003. Court records show that an insurance company was not sure whether to give about $100,000 in benefits to the sons or to Melissa Friedrich.

Once Melissa Friedrich moved in with Robert, his health deteriorated, Karen Friedrich said. His speech became slurred and he was in and out of nursing homes.

"We knew something was not right,'' Karen Friedrich said. Money was disappearing, she said. "We knew she was telling lots of lies; we knew she was keeping him away from us.''

The two sons' lawsuit was settled eventually, with Melissa Friedrich receiving $15,000 and the remaining funds going to the two brothers who sued.



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