The Human Equation

Serial killers, self-reliance, and everything in between

Black Widows on the Web

Female serial killers who kill for profit

Belle Guinness placed ads in lonely hearts columns to ensnare her victims. Over a hundred years later, Melissa Weeks used dating sites the internet. But despite the difference in decades and the advances in technology, these two women engaged in remarkably similar crimes—serial killing for profit.  

How the Black Widow Sets Her Trap

Grieving. Lonely. Vulnerable. These words are music to a black widow's ears, for they indicate that she has found someone who is susceptible to her feminine charms. So, she weaves her web of deception; doting on her victim, lavishing him with gifts, pretending to be the person he wants or needs.

And she plots—so stealthily she may go undetected for years. In fact, the black widow serial killer typically begins her criminal career after the age of 25 and actively murders victims for a decade or more before she is caught. Nicknamed after the black widow spider, who consumes her mate after conceiving, the serial killing black widow typically murders multiple spouses or lovers. However, she is also likely to turn her deadly intentions to other family members or individuals outside of the family with whom she has developed a personal relationship. The goal is simple; get as rich as possible off the people around you and get rid of anyone who stands in your way.

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Melissa Weeks:  The Internet Black Widow

In early October, just-married Millie Weeks was arrested and charged with the attempted murder of her new husband while they were honeymooning in Nova Scotia. She had met her latest victim, a recent widow, online and quickly convinced him to marry her. Fortunately, he is recovering from what is believed to be poisoning.

Other significant others were not so lucky. Ms. Weeks, then known as Melissa Friedrich, served six years on a manslaughter charge after drugging and driving over a spouse (Gordon Stewart) in 1991. Fresh out of jail, Weeks quickly met and married Robert Friedrich after meeting him at a Christian retreat in Florida. Within a year of marriage, both his health and his money disappeared; while no one was ever charged in his death, family members described intermittent and mysterious physical ailments throughout the course of their marriage.

Similar ailments plagued Alex Strategos, a 73-year-old divorced man Ms. Weeks met on AmericanSinglesDating.com. In short order, his bank account was emptied and his health deteriorated; he was hospitalized eight times in a two-month period. Fortunately, a strange drug was found in his system before any permanent damage was done and her theft of his money resulted in a five year prison sentence.

The Victim's Perspective

Think these serial killers are easy to spot? Talk to Alex Strategos, Weeks' former paramour. Bewitched by Weeks' apparent spontaneity and zest for life (she drove from Canada to Florida to have dinner with him), he was ecstatic when she moved in with him shortly after they met. Even after he began suffering dizzy spells and strange ailments, the seventy-something never suspected he was being poisoned or that his love was anything other than a devoted companion. It was only after he wound up in a nursing home (after Weeks had convinced him to sign over power of attorney) that the scheme unravelled.

The Bottom Line

Serial murderers kill for different reasons—power, sexual gratification, thrills. Black widow serial killers have money on their minds and murder to get it.

Joni E. Johnston, Psy.D, is the author of Complete Idiot's Guide to Psychology.

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