Always nice to hear news from the old home town. This story from Fox News is entitled, “Minnesota Man Allegedly 'Hunted' Suicidal Victims.”

William Melchert-Dinkel, 48, has pleaded not guilty to two counts of aiding suicide in the deaths of an English man and a Canadian woman. Attorneys for both sides presented oral arguments Thursday to Rice County District Court Judge Thomas Neuville, who has up to 20 days to decide whether Melchert-Dinkel is guilty.

Prosecutors say Melchert-Dinkel, an ex-nurse from Faribault, was obsessed with suicide and hanging and that he sought out potential victims on the Internet. When he found them, prosecutors say, he posed in chat rooms and in e-mails as a woman, played the role of a compassionate friend and offered step-by-step instructions on how they could take their lives.

Melchert-Dinkel is identified as a resident of Faribault, which is my secondary home town. It's only fifteen miles from my actual home town, and my mother's parents lived there. Both my folks eventually took jobs there. Since Mom was a nurse, she might even have known this guy.

I note the hyphenated name, “Melchert-Dinkel.” Although it's not always true, such hyphenization often indicates (in America) a “progressive,” non-traditional attitude to the world. Which sets me thinking.

If you're a modernist, a moral relativist, what exactly would you say this guy did wrong? Would you say he did anything wrong at all?

A relativist would never concede that suicide is wrong in itself. Nothing is essentially wrong, for the relativist. If someone wants to commit suicide, certainly that's their own choice, isn't it? It might be unkind to their loved ones, but we often encourage people to do things their loved ones don't like, like marrying people their parents reject, or going into careers they don't approve of. Why should dying be any different?

You could say he did wrong in deceiving these people, but the relativist can't say that deception is necessarily bad either. Melchert-Dinkel could argue that these people felt they had the company of a caring friend at the end of their lives, and were never disabused of that belief. He could maintain that he'd actually done them a great favor. And if he got a sexual charge out of the experience, well, who does that hurt? Everybody wins.

I often harken back to the words of Wisdom (depicted as a woman) in Proverbs 8:36: “But whoever fails to find me harms himself; all who hate me love death.”

Lars Walker is the author of several fantasy novels, the latest of which is West Oversea.