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'Black widow' with Tampa Bay history charged in Canada with poisoning her latest husband

A 77-year-old woman, whom some called a "black widow" after the suspicious deaths of two ex-husbands, and who admitted to stealing thousands of dollars from an ailing Pinellas Park man in 2005, was arrested Monday in Nova Scotia, Canada, after authorities there said she tried to poison her latest husband.

Melissa Ann Friedrich, who also goes by the name Millie Weeks, faces an attempted murder charge following an investigation into a mysterious illness afflicting her 77-year-old husband, who was admitted Saturday to a Canadian hospital. The man, identified in Canadian news reports as Fred Weeks, fell ill after he and his wife checked into a bed and breakfast Friday in the town of North Sydney, reports stated.

Paramedics took Weeks to a hospital, where police were called Sunday. Authorities later issued an arrest warrant for Weeks' wife and ordered a search of the couple's home in New Glasgow, reports said.

Friedrich, who has a lengthy criminal history on fraud-related charges, was convicted of killing one former husband and suspected of poisoning another.

In 2004, she left Canada and moved into the Pinellas Park home of Alex Strategos after the pair met on the Internet. Just hours after the couple got together, Strategos began feeling dizzy. He was hospitalized half a dozen times. When his son noticed that his father's bank accounts were shrinking, he called police, who arrested Friedrich the following January.

A test of Strategos' blood showed signs of a tranquilizer. Police were unable to prove that Friedrich drugged him, but they did have proof that she stole nearly $20,000 from him.

Friedrich served four years in Florida prison after she pleaded guilty to multiple charges of grand theft and forgery. But that was not her most serious crime.

In 1992, Friedrich was convicted of manslaughter for running over her husband with a car on a Canadian road. She claimed he had raped her and she accidentally ran over him while trying to escape. For that, she got six years in prison; she served two.

In 2000, she met 83-year-old Robert Edmund Friedrich of Bradenton and became engaged within three days, Friedrich's family said.

Soon after, Friedrich's health began to deteriorate. At the same time, his new wife drained more than $400,000 from his bank account, his family said.

Friedrich died in 2002. His family suspected that his wife drugged and killed him, but no autopsy was performed because of his poor health. Mrs. Friedrich had the body cremated.

Manatee County authorities later opened an investigation into Friedrich's death, but no charges ever came.

Strategos, who still lives in Pinellas Park, said he was speechless when Canadian newspapers called him this week and told him of Friedrich's arrest.

"Apparently she's going to go to jail," Strategos said. "For attempted murder, at her age, she'll probably never get out. Whatever she did, she brought it on herself."

Dan Sullivan can be reached at (727) 893-8321 or dsullivan@tampabay.com.

'Black widow' with Tampa Bay history charged in Canada with poisoning her latest husband 10/04/12 [Last modified: Thursday, October 4, 2012 10:40pm]
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