(CBS/AP) FARIBAULT, Minn. - In the category of preying on society's most vulnerable, William Melchert-Dinkel may have set a new low.
The former Minnesota nurse, who helped persuade two people he met online to kill themselves, was sentenced Wednesday to nearly a year of total jail time, including a requirement to spend the anniversaries of his victims' behind bars over the next ten years.
Melchert-Dinkel was convicted of two counts of aiding suicide under a rarely used Minnesota law. Prosecutors said he posed online as a suicidal nurse and encouraged a Canadian woman and a British man to commit suicide.
Judge Thomas Neuville's sentence was less than the maximum 15 years Melchert-Dinkel could have gotten for each count. Neuville officially sentenced Melchert-Dinkel to six-and-a-half years in prison - but stayed execution of that sentence, meaning Melchert-Dinkel do hard time in prison only if he violates terms of his probation, which includes the jail time. He'll be on probation for 15 years.
Neuville compared Melchert-Dinkel's conduct to stalking, describing it as calculated, intentional, and fraudulent. But he also said that while Melchert-Dinkel's conduct was directly related to the deaths, he wasn't the sole reason the victims took their lives.
Melchert-Dinkel declined a jury trial, leaving Neuville to decide whether he was guilty.
He was convicted in the death of 32-year-old Mark Drybrough, of Coventry, England, who hanged himself in 2005; and 18-year-old Nadia Kajouji, of Brampton, Ontario, who jumped into a frozen river in 2008.
Melchert-Dinkel wiped tears from his eyes as the judge sentenced him. In a statement read by his attorney, Terry Watkins, he apologized and said he felt shame and remorse.