Minnesota nurse may have encouraged Canadian student's suicide

  • Article by: PAM LOUWAGIE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 25, 2009 - 11:01 PM

State and Canadian authorities are investigating whether a Minnesota man urged an Ottawa teen to take her own life - and in front of a webcam.

Photos courtesy of Miranda Bennett, taken off of Facebook group with her permission. Nadia Kajouji had been battling depression at Carleton University in Ottawa in the months leading up to her suicide, her parents learned.

Nadia Kajouji's parents couldn't believe what they were reading:

Buy a rope that's long enough and strong enough to do the job, a writer in an online chat room had advised their 18-year-old college student, according to police transcripts of the Internet conversation, they said. Failed suicide attempts were ugly, the chatter warned, with people becoming permanently mutilated or incapacitated.

Weeks after she disappeared last winter, Kajouji's body turned up in a cold Ottawa river, just a few miles from where she went to school.

This week, her parents learned, the trail of their daughter's death appears to lead to Minnesota.

A state task force on Internet crimes is investigating a Minnesota man in connection with Kajouji's suicide, St. Paul Police Department spokesman Peter Panos confirmed Wednesday. Authorities declined to reveal more because the case is ongoing, he said.

Kajouji died in March after telling her roommate that she was going skating. For weeks, police and community members searched the Ottawa area, her disappearance making national news in Canada.

Her parents, sick with worry, were devastated when authorities showed them the chilling transcripts, they said. Canadian authorities told them this week that the online contact was a male nurse in Minnesota, they said.

He told their daughter about being depressed for years and planning a suicide, too, the parents said. They talked about how belongings would be distributed and their bodies identified.

At first, the parents assumed the online correspondent was a woman.

"She told my daughter ... she was going to hang herself. She was going to make sure that her mother got insurance money," Mohamad Kajouji said in a tearful telephone interview from near Toronto on Wednesday. "She told my daughter that she had tried every medication there is" and that nothing worked, he said.

Kajouji said the correspondent wrote about having a lot of experience with seeing gunshot wounds and other injuries.

The girl's mother, Deborah Chevalier, said in a phone interview Wednesday that the transcripts showed that the suspect made it sound like a suicide pact and wanted her daughter to open a webcam between the two of them when she committed suicide -- something Chevalier said she believes didn't happen.

"I can't understand how any human could talk like that or encourage something like that to another person," Chevalier said. "It's not even human."

Reading through pieces of the transcripts over the telephone, Mohamad Kajouji said Wednesday that the man encouraged his daughter to hang herself and discussed various other methods of suicide.

At one point, Mohamad Kajouji said, the writer asked his daughter if she had a webcam. If it came down to hanging, the chatterer offered to help her through the web, he said. He even asked Nadia for a picture, Kajouji said.

Mohamad Kajouji said that after talking with Canadian authorities, "I'm pretty sure he did these things before ... he prey on vulnerable kids like my daughter."

He said his daughter talked online about dying of hypothermia. Her body was found in the Rideau River near St. Paul University in Ottawa.

"He wanted to see her dying," the father said, adding later: "He's an animal."

Nadia Kajouji had been battling depression at Carleton University in Ottawa in the months leading up to her suicide, her parents learned. She was undergoing counseling and had been prescribed antidepressants. Her case ignited a debate on student privacy rights versus what duty school officials should have to relay information about students' struggles to their parents, the Ottawa Citizen newspaper reported.

Ottawa Police confirmed to the newspaper this week that they have been cooperating with Minnesota law enforcement on the case for about three weeks.

Panos said the Minnesota Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force is working on the case along with the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. They don't expect charges in the next few days, he said.

"They are in the middle of the investigation, so we're not releasing any kind of suspect names or anything," Panos said.

The task force, made up of several law enforcement agencies, investigates and prosecutes those attempting to exploit children via the Internet. Its commander is part of the St. Paul Police Department.

Panos said he believes authorities have some specific charges in mind, but also may be looking at other state and federal statutes.

"It's an unusual case, so there's some different laws they're looking at to see how exactly we would charge him," Panos said.

Kajouji's parents said they are relieved to learn there is a suspect, and they want him exposed.

"If I save one family, I can sleep in peace," Mohamad Kajouji said. "This man is very, very sick."

Glenn Howatt, computer-assisted reporting editor, contributed to this report. Pam Louwagie • 612-673-7102

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