Michelle Carter was found guilty in the unprecedented texting suicide case in which the Massachusetts woman was convicted of manslaughter in her boyfriend’s suicide.
Michelle Carter’s boyfriend, Roy Carter III, died by suicide in 2014. The commonwealth of Massachusetts decided Carter was responsible because of a string of text messages she sent him encouraging him to go through with the suicide in what became known as the texting suicide case.
Carter was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to 15 months in jail. She was 17 at the time of Roy Conrad’s death.
Conrad’s family shared their story with Dr. Oz in an episode which airs November 7, 2019.
“But she tried to console me. She told me that – how much he loved me – I did nothing wrong,” said Roy’s mother, Lynn Roy.
“The focus became Michelle, and not Conrad — did he really want to die?” defense attorney Joseph Cataldo said on the HBO documentary, “I Love You, Now Die.” “And so they shied away from the root causes of why Conrad Roy killed himself.”
Roy Henri Conrad III and Michelle Carter exchanged more than 1,000 text messages, according to South Coast Today. The phone was collected into evidence by police after his body was found, but the battery was dead and building a case with text message evidence was not part of their original plan. The content of the text messages surprised investigators.
“You have to just do it. . . . Tonight is the night. It’s now or never,” she said in one of the texts.
Prosecutors argued Carter encouraged her boyfriend to go through with the suicide because she wanted attention. Fairhaven Police Department Detective Scott R. Gordon wrote in court filings “she was planning to continue to encourage Conrad to take his own life,” prompting her to send her friends a flurry of texts so she could get sympathy.
The teens’ relationship was largely based on text messages, Conrad Roy’s parents said in the documentary. The two only met about five times.
Both Carter and Roy Conrad III were struggling with mental health issues.
She is in jail serving her sentence. The case was appealed.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Michelle Carter’s Text Were Damning At Trial
Michelle Carter was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in causing her boyfriend’s death because of text messages she sent from about one hour away. The teens had a relationship based almost entirely on text messages and only met about five times, according to Esquire.
Michelle Carter of Plainville and Conrad Roy III lived about an hour apart. They met when they were both visiting relatives in Naples, Florida in February, 2012, Esquire reported.
In October 2012, Roy Conrad attempted suicide. It was one of four suicide attempts he made before his death. He asked Michelle Carter if she cared.
“oh my god,” she wrote, according to Esquire. “is this my fault?”
In the hours leading up to Roy Conrad’s death, his mother would later tell police that everything seemed fine. He spent the day with his mother and sisters, and took his sisters out for ice cream. Meanwhile, Michelle and Conrad had plotted a plan for suicide. She texted him, describing the method, and said he would die painlessly.
“You’re so hesitant because you keeping over thinking it and keep pushing it off,” she wrote the day before his suicide. “You just need to do it, Conrad.”
Investigators contended Michelle Carter encouraged the suicide for sympathy and attention from friends. At trial, prosecutors would also point to text messages Michelle sent her friends after his death.
“His death is my fault like honestly I could have stopped him I was on the phone with him and he got out of the car because it was working and he got scared and I f***ing told him to get back in,” Carter wrote about three months after the suicide, according to Boston 25.
Fairhaven Det. Scott Gordon said police weren’t initially planning on searching the phone to build a case, according to Boston.com.
The battery was dead when they found Conrad’s body. His passwords were found in a journal. Investigators were shocked by what they found on the phone.
“It was just constant encouragement to take his life — almost demanding that he take his life,” Gordon said.
Her defense attorney contended there was more to the suicide than Michelle’s encouragement. He said there was no evidence of Michelle telling Conrad to get back in the car, aside from a text she sent months later.
“They were just cherry-picking when to believe Michelle and when not to believe Michelle,” defense attorney Joseph Cataldo said on the documentary.
“To now treat this juvenile as someone who committed a homicide, I think, is unfair, unjust, and illegal, and I think eventually the court system will see it,” he added.
2. Michelle Carter Is Serving A 15-Month Prison Sentence But Earned Time Off her Sentence
Michelle Carter began serving a 15-month sentence for involuntary manslaughter in February after the commonwealth of Massachusetts upheld her conviction for encouraging her boyfriend, Conrad Roy III, to commit suicide in June 2014. She was 17 at the time and Conrad was 18.
She has earned time off her sentence, and has an expected release date of March 13, 2020, according to Fox News.
She was denied parole in September.
“The [board] is troubled that Ms. Carter not only encouraged [Conrad Roy III] to take his own life, she actively prevented others from intervening in his suicide,” the Massachusetts parole board wrote in the decision to deny parole, according to The Hill. “Ms. Carter’s self-serving statements and behavior, leading up to and after his suicide, appear to be irrational and lacked sincerity.”
Her defense attorneys fought to keep Michelle Carter free following her conviction while they filed appeals to overturn the conviction. In February the Massachusetts Supreme Court rejected an emergency motion to delay the sentence, and a judge ordered she start her 15 months sentence immediately, according to NBC. She was convicted in 2017.
Her defense team recently filed a new appeal in the summer of 2019.
Michelle Carter, now 22, is serving her sentence at the Bristol County House of Correction in Dartmouth.
3. Michelle Carter Is A ‘Model Inmate’
Michelle Carter is serving a 15-month sentence at the women’s center of the Bristol County House of Correction in Dartmouth, Massachusetts. Correctional staff told the Boston Herald she is a ‘model inmate.”
She spent her first few days adjusting to jail life and reading.
“She was doing OK and she’s just there to help get herself acclimated to a jail setting. We haven’t had any problems with her. She’s been very polite with our staff. So far she’s been a model inmate,” Jonathan Darling, spokesman for the sheriff’s office, told the Boston Herald a few days after her sentence began.
Officials were keeping a close eye on the situation to be sure Michelle Carter would be safe in the general population.
Her actions in prison have shaved weeks off her sentence, according to Fox News. She was denied parole at a hearing in September.
“She has conducted herself within the confines of her release, so I believe she was an excellent candidate for parole. By no means is she a danger to society,” her attorney, Joseph Cataldo told PEOPLE.
4. The Texting Suicide Conviction Is Under Appeal
Michelle Carter’s defense team filed appeals attempting to keep her out of jail. After the Massachusetts Supreme Court rejected a motion in February, a judge ordered she start her 15-month sentence.
She filed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court Monday after the state Supreme Court upheld her conviction. The motion contends the conviction violates free speech and due process.
“Michelle Carter’s conviction for involuntary manslaughter in connection with Conrad Roy III’s suicide is unprecedented,” her attorneys said in a statement. “Massachusetts is the only state to have affirmed the conviction of a physically absent defendant who encouraged another person to commit suicide with words alone. Before this case, no state had interpreted its common law or enacted an assisted-suicide statute to criminalize ‘pure speech,’ and no other defendant had been convicted for encouraging another person to take his own life where the defendant neither provided the actual means of death nor physically participated in the suicide.”
5. She Had A Severe Eating Disorder And Was On Medication
Michelle Carter had a history of mental health struggles. She was diagnosed with anorexia at age 11 and put on antidepressants at age 14. Carter, who was 17 at the time of Roy’s death, also struggled with self-harm and “severe cutting,” according to Mass Live.
A doctor testified at Michelle Carter’s trial saying she was “involuntary intoxicated” by antidepressants, according to CNN.
She had switched to a new medication a few months before his death, which the doctor said made her unable to form intent. She was taking Prozac for years and switched to Celexa in April 2014. She also began cutting herself between April and June that year, Dr. Peter Breggin testified at her trial.
She continued texting Conrad’s phone for weeks after his death in June 2014.
One of those text messages was the following morning.
“Did you do something??! Conrad I love you so much please tell me this is a joke. I’m so sorry I didn’t think you were being serious. I need you please answer me. I’m gonna get you help and you’re gonna get better we will make it thru this,” she wrote, according to Esquire.
Prosecutors contended the text was part of a cover up.