Unattached gentlemen of a certain age might want to look for an advance 2016 calendar and circle March. That’s when Melissa Shepard is due out of prison and, as her sentencing judge suggests, people around her should be careful.
Then again, the woman popularly referred to as the Black Widow could move or change her name to avoid attention.
Shepard was sentenced to a maximum 3 ½ years Tuesday in Sydney, minus time already served, after pleading guilty to administering a noxious substance to the New Glasgow man she had married just days earlier.
Many will consider that light punishment considering the woman’s past, the pattern of linking up with elderly men to capitalize on their money and, in fact, having been convicted in 1992 of manslaughter in the death of a husband.
The charge of attempted murder was dropped Monday, with the Crown explaining it would be difficult to prove intent. Although we can speculate what Shepard was up to, speculation doesn’t get a conviction in court.
At the very least, the judge was able to use details of her past to hand down the maximum sentence, which is some consolation.
But many will ask why the status of dangerous offender wouldn’t apply under such circumstances. Felons who have exhibited a pattern of frequent assaults on victims or sexual depravity have been locked up indefinitely because of a deemed high likelihood they’ll reoffend. Someone with a lengthy record that includes manslaughter, then found guilty of administering a potentially fatal substance, certainly comes across as a person of high risk.
Provisions for designating an offender as dangerous should perhaps cast a wider net. We have a federal government that professes its toughness on crime; this would be an area to examine.
At the very least after these couple of years behind bars, one would hope to see parole conditions so stringent that such an individual would have little opportunity of getting another hapless victim in her clutches.