06/10/2013 09:13 EDT | Updated 08/10/2013 05:12 EDT

Internet 'Black Widow' pleads guilty to lesser charge

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.