When two teenagers started exchanging text messages, they probably didn’t expect them to be read by anybody but themselves.
But after the string of texts led to the one teen’s suicide, months worth of deeply disturbing messages are now being aired publicly in a Massachusetts courtroom.
Michelle Carter, 20, is charged with involuntary manslaughter after sending hundreds of texts that the prosecution says encouraged her 17-year-old boyfriend Conrad Roy III to kill himself in 2014. It will be up to a judge to determine whether she is legally responsible for his death by the end of this week.
Here is the chain of events that led up to the trial:
- In 2012, Carter and Roy were both teenagers when they met while taking family vacations in Florida. Both lived in Massachusetts and, at the end of their holiday, started talking to each other over Facebook and text. In October 2012, Roy’s parents divorced and he attempted to commit suicide. Court evidence found that Roy had been both physically and verbally abused and once referred to himself as “no-good trash” and “an abortion.” While Carter also struggled with body image and severe anxiety, court experts described her as more positive than Roy. She would regularly listen to him as he shared his worries. In 2014, she wrote to a friend that she was “kinda going thru my own stuff but if I leave him he will probably kill himself and it would be all my fault.” By July 2014, Carter switched from taking Prozac to Celexa for her anxiety and, according to a court psychiatrist, also shifted in her communications with Roy. “She’s thinking it’s a good thing to help him die,” psychiatrist Peter R. Breggin told The New York Times. In the two weeks before Roy killed himself, Carter continued to send him lengthy texts. In one, she told him that he was strong enough to go along with it while adding that “everyone will be sad for a while but they will get over it and move on.” Carter even wrote Roy possibilities of how he could kill himself, writing one could “hang yourself, jump off a building, stab yourself idk there’s a lot of ways.” On July 10, Carter started texting Roy about how he could use the car generator of his pickup truck to commit suicide. At the same time, she was texting her friends that Roy had gone missing while still talking to him. In the next two days, Carter would send Roy multiple texts saying he “just had to do it” and spoke to him by phone before texting another friend that Roy had gotten out of the car because he got scared and she “told him to get back in.” On July 12, 2014, Roy died inside his car from carbon monoxide poisoning. He was found by the police the next day. In the coming weeks, Carter organized a fundraising tournament in Roy’s honor and started calling herself a suicide prevention advocate trying to “save as many other lives as possible.” As police started investigating the events that led up to Roy’s suicide, Carter was charged with involuntary manslaughter on March 5, 2015. On June 6, 2017, lawyers presented opening statements in the trial, with Carter having waived her right to a trial by jury. If the judge finds Carter responsible for helping Roy kill himself, she could face up to 20 years in prison.