On July 13, 2014, authorities found the lifeless body of 18-year-old Conrad Roy III in his pickup truck, parked at the Kmart parking lot in Fairhaven, Massachusetts. He was an honor roll student, but he was dealing with anxiety and depression-like many of us.
Initially, his death was believed to be a suicide – and it technically was. Conrad killed himself with carbon monoxide by attaching his portable generator to his car, filling it up with the poisonous chemical. It didn’t take long for law enforcement to figure out much more about the story.
Roy was in a long-distance relationship with 17-year-old Michelle Carter, who encouraged him to take his own life over a series of text messages in the weeks leading up to his tragic suicide. I know this is a whole new level of crazy.
On the day he died, Carter reportedly texted her boyfriend this: “You keep pushing it off and say you’ll do it, but you never do. It’s always going to be that way if you don’t take action.” This is the story of a twisted high school romance plagued with mental illness that ended in the death of a teenager.
In the years after 18-year-old Conrad Roy III took his own life, the circumstances surrounding his death have sparked a firestorm in the media. Even though his death was caused by Roy poisoning himself with carbon monoxide, his girlfriend Michelle Carter, who was miles away, was convicted for involuntary manslaughter.
Text messages exchanged between the high school lovebirds exposed Michelle Carter, revealing that the 17-year-old repeatedly urged her boyfriend to commit suicide. The twisted story prompted a widespread debate over whether someone should be held responsible for another person’s suicide.
Michelle Carter and Conrad Roy lived just an hour away from Carter in Plainville and Roy in Fairhaven. Still, most of their relationship was via phone, email, texts, and other forms of digital communication due to their distance.
The high school couple only saw each other in person five times. They first met when they were both on vacation with their respective families. Both teens were dealing with depression, and it should be noted that Roy had attempted suicide previously, so he was pretty vulnerable.
Both Carter and Roy were small-town Massachusetts kids; the pair met in 2012 while visiting relatives in Florida. They developed an intense, long-distance relationship. Both teens struggled with mental health issues, and both were prescribed antidepressants.
Carter fought an eating disorder, and Roy had unsuccessfully attempted suicide in the past. The digital romance was toxic, although Carter claimed to have encouraged her boyfriend to seek help for his depression.
“The mental hospital would help you,” Carter texted Roy in June 2014, one month before his death. “I know you don’t think it would, but I’m telling you, if you give them a chance, they can save your life.” However, within weeks, her messages shifted drastically.
“I’ll stay up with you if you want to [commit suicide] tonight,” she said on July 8. When Roy responded that “another day wouldn’t hurt,” Carter badgered him. “You can’t keep pushing it off, though; that’s all you keep doing,” she told him. Although he continued to express doubts about the suicide, Carter continued to encourage him to do so.
In February 2015, months after Roy killed himself, Michelle Carter was indicted on charges of involuntary manslaughter. Her case made headline news; I mean, it’s not every day when a teenager convinces her boyfriend to commit suicide.
Under normal circumstances, people help the ones they care for, but not Michelle Carter. Major news outlets followed her story and covered her trial. Her photo even ended up on the cover of People Magazine. It shocked the world that this innocent-looking, blonde teenager was capable of such an evil and manipulative crime.
So, as you are probably wondering, what the heck happened? What could cause a high school girl to encourage her boyfriend – whom she loved – to kill himself? And it wasn’t like she just didn’t care if he ended his life.
She sent him step-by-step instructions on how to do it. During the trial, dozens of text messages came to light, proving that Carter urged her boyfriend to kill himself, and it was evidence that she couldn’t deny. Here is one of the disturbing messages she sent to Roy.
17-year-old Carter wrote: “I think your parents know you’re in a terrible place. I’m not saying they want you to do it, but I honestly feel they can accept it. They know there is nothing they can do. They’ve tried helping.”
“Everyone’s tired, but there is a point that comes where there isn’t anything anyone can do to save you, not even yourself. And you’ve hit that point, and I think your parents know you’ve hit that point.” As unsettling as that sounds, it goes on…
Carter continued, “You said your mom saw a suicide thing on your computer, and she didn’t say anything. I think she knows it’s on your mind. She’s prepared for it. Everyone will be sad for a while, but they will get over it and move on.”
“They won’t be in depression. I won’t let that happen. They know how sad you are, and they know that you are doing this to be happy, and I think they will understand and accept it. They will always carry you in their hearts.”
I know, that’s a lot to take in. Who does she think she is telling him that his parents will get over it? The death of a child is not something any parent moves on from. Roy responded, “Aww. Thank you, Michelle,” illustrating how sad and vulnerable he was.
He didn’t even realize how toxic and manipulative she was. If anything, he seemed to think that she was telling him to take his own life to help him, to make him happy. Sadly, he believed her.
CARTER: “They will move on for you because they know that’s what you would have wanted. They know you wouldn’t want them to be sad and depressed and be angry and guilty. They know you want them to live their lives and be happy. So, they will for you. You’re right. You need to stop thinking about this and just do it because overturning always kills, over thinking.”
Roy: “Yeah, it does. I’ve been thinking about it for too long.”
Carter: “Always smile, and yeah, you have just to do it. You have everything you need. There is no way you can fail. Tonight is the night. It’s now or never.” Reading this makes me sick to my stomach. I can’t imagine how this story could have ended differently if she had encouraged him to get help.
Perhaps Michelle could have told Roy’s parents how he was feeling so they could do something to prevent the death of their child. Instead, she gave him step-by-step instructions of exactly what he should do to kill himself successfully.
Carter: “Yeah, it will work. If you emit 3200 ppm of it for five or ten minutes, you will die within a half hour. You lose consciousness with no pain. You just fall asleep and die. You can also just take a hose and run that from the exhaust pipe to the rear window in your car and seal it with duct tape and shirts, so it can’t escape. You will die within, like, 20 or 30 minutes, all pain-free.”
So, how can she defend that? Well, her lawyers argued that the prosecutors “cherry-picked” those messages and ignored the ones where she encouraged Roy to get help.
Carter’s defense lawyers claimed that she tried to talk Roy out of ending his life during her trial, as reported by NBC Boston. They said that she tried to get him to seek help. Her attorney went on to say that Roy’s determination to kill himself wouldn’t have changed no matter what Carter said.
It was decided that Carter had a “duty to alleviate the risk.” The fact that she didn’t do so “caused the death of Mr. Roy,” and she was ultimately found guilty of involuntary manslaughter. This is what went down in the courtroom.
During Carter’s 2017 trial, the prosecutor Maryclare Flynn explained how she wanted attention and sympathy from the kids at her school, acting like the “grieving girlfriend” who couldn’t stop her boyfriend from taking his own life.
“The defendant needed something to get their attention,” Flynn stated. “She used Conrad as a pawn in her sick game of life and death.” That makes this disturbing case even more unsettling. But it seems like the only motive the mentally unstable teen had.
Flynn went on to allege that Carter told Roy’s family that she knew nothing about the manner or location of his death. The texts, of course, later proved otherwise.
“She never admitted to anyone in the Roy family that she had helped Conrad for weeks to devise a suicide plan, or that she was on the phone with Conrad and knew he committed suicide in the Kmart parking lot,” Flynn said. As if telling him to kill himself wasn’t cruel enough, she lied about the situation to his poor, grieving family.
Conrad’s mother, Lynn Roy, also spoke at the trial. She recalled her last day with her son, on July 12, 2014. They joined his sisters for a lovely day at Horseneck Beach in Westport, Massachusetts. They had a wonderful time.
Conrad attempted suicide back in 2012 when he overdosed after leaving his rehab program for his depression. But by 2014, he seemed excited about the future. He recently graduated high school and had just been accepted to Fitchburg State University, where he planned to study business.
After everything Conrad had gone through, it seemed like he was finally getting past the severe suicidal thoughts. As we know, mental health isn’t something that just goes away, but he appeared to be feeling better.
“I thought he was a little depressed,” Lynn testified but then added, “I thought he was doing great.” When he didn’t return home that evening, she called the police. Shortly after, she lived every mother’s worst nightmare when she got the news of his death.
Carter texted her friend Samantha Boardman, and the messages were incriminating but indicated that she was feeling remorseful. “Sam, his death is my fault [honestly] I could have stopped him I was on the phone with, and he got out of the car because it was working and he got scared and I [expletive] told him to get back in,” she texted.
“I knew he would do it all over the next day and I couldn’t have him live the way he was living anymore,” Carter texted Boardman. “I couldn’t do it. I wouldn’t let him.” On September 15, 2014, she texted Boardman saying, “I should have done more and it’s all my fault because I could have stopped him but I [expletive] didn’t.”
Prosecutors called in two of Carter’s friends whom she texted about Roy’s suicide. “I was talking to him on the phone when he killed himself,” she reportedly texted Olivia Mosolgo, who was on the softball team with Carter. “Liv, I heard him die. I just wish I got him more help.”
Then she texted another friend, Alexandria Ethier, whom Carter met when they worked at a summer camp together. Carter allegedly texted: “Yeah, and I was on the phone talking to him when he killed himself. I heard him dying.”
So, as I’m sure you are wondering, what the heck was her defense? The texts she sent are clear evidence that she encouraged Roy to kill himself, even when he was hesitant about going through with it. Well, her lawyers brought in Dr. Peter Breggin to testify about the effects of Celexa, a medication that Carter was prescribed to treat her anxiety and depression.
The psychiatrist explained how Celexa could inhibit impulse control. He added that these kinds of drugs “disrupt the frontal lobe function” and that “the young brain is more susceptible to harm” from such drugs.
According to The Boston Globe, Carter sent over 80 text messages to Roy’s phone after he died. She apologized for not doing enough to stop him from committing suicide. She also expressed her love for him. She wrote:
“You probably thought I was okay with it, and you talked about being in heaven and being my angel, and at the time, I went along with it because I knew you weren’t gonna do anything.” She then wrote, “But you [expletive] did it, and I’m so sorry I didn’t save you.”
When he handed down his guilty verdict, Judge Moniz pointed out what Carter did right before Roy killed himself, when he called her from outside his pickup truck expressing his concerns about going through with it.
She told him to get back into his vehicle, “which she has reason to know is or becoming a toxic environment inconsistent with human life.” “She did nothing,” he said. Those final moments sealed her fate. Moniz believed if she hadn’t told him to get back into his car, that night would have turned out differently.
During her sentencing, Roy’s family members had the opportunity to address the court. Roy’s father called his late son his best friend and said: “Michelle Carter exploited my son’s weaknesses and used him as a pawn.”
“How could Michelle Carter behave so viciously and encourage my son to end his life? Where was her humanity?” he added. In a statement before sentencing, Roy’s mother wrote, “There is not one day that I do not mourn the loss of my beloved son.”
As People magazine reported, Judge Moniz, the judge who announced her conviction, explained what really led to the teen’s conviction: “Carter’s actions and also her failure to act where she had a self-created duty to Mr. Roy, since she had put him in that toxic environment, constituted each and all wanton and reckless conduct,” he explained.
“She [instructed] Mr. Roy to get back into the truck, well-knowing of all of the feelings that he [had] exchanged with her: his ambiguities, his fears, his concerns,” he said.
He went on to say, “She did nothing. She did not call the police or Mr. Roy’s family. Finally, she did not issue a simple additional instruction [to Roy]: ‘Get out of the truck.’” Once his body was found, Carter texted a friend and confessed that she played a role in his death.
According to People, Carter admitted, “I could have stopped it.”. “I was on the phone with him, and he got out of the car because it was working, and he got scared, and I [expletive] told him to get back in.”
According to CNN, the Massachusetts state supreme court denied Carter’s appeal in February 2019, and a judge told the then-20-year-old Carter to start serving her sentence. She was sentenced to two and a half years behind bars.
Like many convicted criminals, Carter only spent 15 months in the Bristol Country House of Correction, and the rest of her time was suspended. As NBC News reported, Carter “showed no emotion as bailiffs took her away.” Fifteen months in prison doesn’t seem long enough, but I’m no judge.
However, Roy’s family feels the same way. They are never going to see him again. Roy’s aunt, Becky Maki, spoke on the family’s behalf, stating that “it’s been four and a half years since Conrad passed. Our heart has been broken this whole time.”
She added, “it’s been hard to live out the details of his death over and over again. It’s something that hasn’t left our mind… I hope that no one else ever has to feel this pain. His life mattered. It mattered to us, and I think it mattered to a lot of people. Conrad, we love you.”
Carter’s attorneys petitioned for the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case. “Michelle Carter did not cause Conrad Roy’s tragic death and should not be held criminally responsible for his suicide,” said her lawyer, Daniel Marx of the Boston law firm Flick & Marx LLP.
“This petition focuses on just two of the many flaws in the case against her that raise important federal constitutional issues for the U.S. Supreme Court to decide.” On January 13, 2020, the Supreme Court decided they would not take up the appeal.
When the Massachusetts Supreme Court announced their decision to reject her appeal, Carter’s lawyers argued that her conviction went against her First Amendment right to free speech. However, the supreme court defined involuntary manslaughter as “reckless or wanton conduct causing the death of another.” That does not exclude the teen’s texts.
“The defendant cannot escape liability just because she happened to use “words to carry out [her] illegal [act],” the court mentioned. Numerous crimes could be committed verbally, but they are “intuitively and correctly” understood not to raise First Amendment concerns.”
Furthermore, “The evidence against the defendant proved that by her wanton or reckless conduct,” the justices ruled, “she caused the victim’s death by suicide. After the ruling was presented, Carter was ordered to begin her jail time, and as we mentioned, she only served 12 of her 15 months sentence.
As we know, freedom of speech is a right until your speech becomes a threat or a direct call to violence. Michelle Carter telling her boyfriend to kill himself is the definition of that.
Carter’s attorney maintained that Carter regretted her actions. “I suggest that she is not a danger to the public and in the juvenile system probation is appropriate,” he told People. “A whole lot has been reported thus far that Michelle Carter always wanted to endorse Conrad Roy’s plan to kill himself.
But it will be abundantly clear that for weeks before agreeing to his plan, she tried to talk him out of it, and he tried to get her to commit suicide with him.”
I didn’t see any messages where Roy asked his girlfriend to make a suicide pact with him. Even if they did “cherry-pick” the texts where Carter encouraged her boyfriend to kill himself, that doesn’t mean she didn’t send them. Even if she tried to stop him at first, it doesn’t change what she did after.
NBC Boston said that Carter is “assimilating very well” to her life in the prison. Bristol country Sheriff Thomas Hodgson told the publication that she appeared to be “reserved and quiet.” In her first week in jail, she reportedly checked out a library book and even had a visitor.
On January 23, less than two weeks after the Supreme Court rejected her appeal, Carter was photographed leaving Bristol. She wore a turtleneck under a light grey blazer and walked escorted by jail officials who carried all her things in large garbage bags. They accompanied her to a waiting car.
As Buzzfeed News put it, she earned enough “good time” to get released early, serving just 11 months of her 15-month sentence. She only had three months left of her short jail time, but many were infuriated by her early release.
“Ms. Carter has been a model inmate in Bristol County,” said Jonathan Darling, a Bristol County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson. He told Buzzfeed that “she has attended programs, had a job inside the jail, has been polite to our staff volunteers, has gotten along with other inmates, and we’ve had no discipline issued with her whatsoever.”
The “good behavior in jail” argument is bothersome. It doesn’t take away from her previous actions. When people don’t have the freedom to commit crimes, they “behave better.” Granted, Carter wasn’t the one who murdered him, but Charles Manson never killed anyone either.