Canadian prison will soon free Pinellas Park ‘Internet Black Widow’

Melissa Friedrich. Photo on the left courtesy Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, photo on the right via Florida Department of Corrections

PINELLAS PARK, Fla. (WFLA) – Melissa Friedrich, the imprisoned 80-year-old woman who’s become known as the Internet Black Widow because of her trail of dead and nearly dead husbands and boyfriends in two nations, is about to go free – once again.

Pinellas Park resident Alex Strategos, age 85, became one of Friedrich’s victims 11 years ago after meeting her on an Internet dating site. “I was lonely and I wanted somebody,” Strategos said. “She fit the bill.”

Must have, because Friedrich moved in with Strategos after their first date.

Pinellas Park resident Alex Strategos said he has no regreats or anger about his relationship with the Internet Black Widow, who nearly killed him.
Pinellas Park resident Alex Strategos said he has no regreats or anger about his relationship with the Internet Black Widow, who nearly killed him.

Strategos landed in the hospital eight times with increasing weakness and debilitating illnesses before Pinellas Park plice discovered Friedrich had been spiking his ice cream with powerful does of the tranquiler commonly known as Lorazepam.

“I get very naive about things,” Strategos said. Friedrich spent four years in a Florida prison for exploiting Strategos and stealing $18,000 of his savings.

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“She’s never learned from what she’s done,” Pinellas Park Detective Sgt. Mike Lynch said.

Lynch investigated the Strategos case. “You equate her to a grandmother. But when you start talking to her, you realize there’s something else behind that veil, behind that curtain she puts up,” he said.

Like Canadian authorities, Lynch believes Friedrich remains dangerous despite being reduced to using a wheelchair after spending the past two years in prison. “You can almost equate her to a Venus flytrap. She has something that attracts individuals to her,” Lynch said.

In the end, the men end up victims of theft – or murder.

Pinellas Park Detective Mike Lynch
Pinellas Park Detective Mike Lynch

Strategos wasn’t the first lonely heart to fall prey to Friedrich’s wiles and he wasn’t the last. ICE deported Friedrich back to Canada in 2009 after she finished her Florida prison sentence for exploiting Strategos. But living out her golden years peacefully in a senior citizen retirement community wasn’t in the cards.

Two years ago, at age 78, Friedrich surfaced again. This time Canadian police arrested her for drugging her fourth husband, 75-year old Fred Weeks, at a Nova Scotia bed and breakfast during the couple’s brief but eventful honeymoon.

Rescuers found Weeks passed out on the bedroom floor amid his own urine and feces. At a nearby hospital, Friedrich seemed strangely unconcerned. Weeks nearly died before anyone figured out Friedrich was up to her old tricks.

We say old tricks because Friedrich gave a fatal dose of Lorazepam to her second husband, Gordon Stewart, back in 1991 before twice running Stewart over with her car. Friedrich spent two years in prison for manslaughter and then became a poster child for abused women after her release, as she convinced everyone she had been the victim of Stewart’s abuse.

In 2002, Manatee County Sheriff’s Office detectives discovered Friedrich had an illegal stash of Lorazepam in her possession. However, she did not face any charges in the death of her third husband, Manatee County widower Robert Friedrich. Melissa married Friedrich in 2000 after meeting him at a Christian retreat.

Friedrich died two years later after disinheriting his adult children and making Melissa the sole beneficiary of his estate. Friedrich’s adult children from his first marriage suspected foul play, but Manatee detectives could not substantiate that claim. It was impossible to gather any evidence in that case because Melissa had Friedrich cremated before an investigation could begin. Suspicious or not, they had to let her go.

This week, a cadre of Canadian deputies rolled Friedrich in her wheelchair from her prison cell to a parole hearing in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where authorities imposed a number of restrictions upon her impending release — no drugs, no Internet, no boyfriends.

Meanwhile, Strategos, who is in failing health back in Pinellas Park, insists he doesn’t regret the day he met Friedrich. That’s because even for a brief time she brought happiness into his life. Strategos harbors no anger.

“What’s the use? If I did that I would be doing something wrong,” Strategos said. He tapped his heart for emphasis.

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