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Authorities Charge Michelle Carter with Involuntary Manslaughter in Conrad Roy's Suicide
On July 13, 2014, authorities found the body of Conrad Roy III, 18, in his pickup truck parked outside a Kmart in Fairhaven, Massachusetts. He apparently had killed himself by attaching a hose from a portable generator and filling the truck's cab with poisonous carbon monoxide.
Although Roy had struggled with depression and been prescribed antidepressants, the investigation took a turn when police learned of a series of texts — eventually more than 1,000 — exchanged with his Michelle Carter, then 17, in the week prior to his death. Carter, who described herself as Roy's girlfriend, appeared to be encouraging him to carry out his suicide, according to prosecutors, who later filed a charge of involuntary manslaughter against her.
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Prosecutor: Carter Was Playing a ‘Sick Game of Life and Death’
In her opening statement, Assistant District Attorney Maryclare Flynn said Carter, now 20, wanted sympathy and attention from other girls at school, yearning to be the “grieving girlfriend” who couldn’t stop her boyfriend from committing suicide, WPRI reports.
“The defendant needed something to get their attention,” Flynn said. “She used Conrad as a pawn in her sick game of life and death.”
Flynn also alleged that Carter tried to pretend to the Roy family that she didn’t know the manner and location of Roy’s death – despite texts from her that allegedly indicated 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.
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Conrad Roy's Mother: 'I Thought He Was Doing Great'
On the first day of the trial, Conrad's mother, Lynn, recalled their last day together on July 12, 2014, when she joined him and his sisters for a day at Horseneck Beach in Westport, Massachusetts.
Conrad had attempted an overdose in 2012 after leaving a treatment program for his depression. But he'd just been accepted to Fitchburg State University and planned to study business after his recent high school graduation.
"I thought he was a little depressed," she testified, but she added, "I thought he was doing great," MassLive.com reports.
When he did not return home that night, she said she called police, and later informed them about texts she received from Michelle Carter.
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Carter's Text to Friend: 'His Death Is My Fault’
Carter’s friend Samantha Boardman read aloud in court from texts Cater allegedly sent her that seemed to indicate she was remorseful.
“Sam 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 [expletive] told him to get back in,” Carter allegedly texted to Boardman, reports the Boston Herald.
“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 allegedly wrote to Boardman. “I couldn’t do it. I wouldn’t let him.”
“I should have did more and it’s all my fault because I could of stopped him but I [expletive] didn’t,” Carter allegedly texted to Boardman on September 15, 2014, reports MassLive.com.
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‘I Heard Him Die,’ Carter Texted
Prosecutors also called two friends of Carter’s who received texts from her about Conrad’s suicide.
“I was talking to him on the phone when he killed himself,” Carter allegedly texted Olivia Mosolgo, who played on a softball team with Carter. “Liv, I heard him die. I just wish I got him more help.”
To another friend, Alexandra Ethier, who Carter knew from working at a summer camp, Carter allegedly texted: “Yeah and I was on the phone talking to him when he killed himself. I’m heard him dying.”
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Carter's Lawyer: 'She Tried to Talk Him Out of It'
Before the case went to trial, Carter's defense attorney Joseph P. Cataldo argued that the texts are protected speech and they “did not contain anything remotely resembling a threat” worthy of a criminal charge, according to his court filing. He says Roy's decision to kill himself was Roy's alone.
After Cataldo appealed to try and throw out the involuntary manslaughter charge, it was upheld by the state's Supreme Judicial Court, which ruled in part: “It was apparent that the defendant understood the repercussions of her role in the victim’s death. Prior to his death, the defendant sought [apparently unsuccessfully] to have the victim delete the text messages between the two.”
Cataldo told PEOPLE: “A lot of what has been reported thus far is that Michelle Carter always wanted to endorse Conrad Roy’s plan to kill himself. But it will be abundantly clear that for weeks prior to agreeing to his plan, she tried to talk him out of it, and he tried to get her to commit suicide with him.”
“We’re dealing with a 17-year-old impressionable female who was not equipped to deal with Conrad Roy’s suicide plans," Cataldo said, "and sadly he carried through on his plan."
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Defense Tries to Get Charges Dropped, Judge Rejects Motion
Following three days of testimony, prosecutors concluded their case against Carter on Friday, June 9, and her attorney Joseph P. Cataldo moved for Carter's acquittal.
"The evidence is insufficient to show that she caused him to die," he told Judge Lawrence Moniz, who is hearing the case without a jury at Carter's request.
The motion to dismiss charges ahead of calling any defense witnesses is standard procedure in criminal cases. But after hearing arguments, Judge Moniz denied the motion, prompting Cataldo to proceed with calling defense witnesses to the stand.
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Psychiatrist: Meds Impaired Carter's Judgement
On Monday, Dr. Peter Breggin spoke about the effects of Celexa, a medication that treats depression and anxiety. Breggin, who said he had examined Carter prior to taking the witness stand, told the court the 20-year-old was prescribed the medication in 2014, when she was 17 — not long before 18-year-old Conrad Roy III’s suicide.
According to the Boston Globe, the psychiatrist said Celexa can inhibit impulse control. Breggin added that drugs like Celexa “disrupt the frontal lobe function” and that “the young brain is more susceptible to harm” from such drugs.
“Someone who wouldn’t do anything outlandish or dangerous might when the frontal lobe is injured in some way,” Breggin testified.
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Prosecution Says Carter Has History of Ling Before Defense Rests
Testimony in the trial concluded on Tuesday, but not before prosecutors alleged Carter was a liar who wanted Roy to kill himself so she could get attention as his grieving girlfriend.
Closing arguments are scheduled for later on Tuesday, and the judge hearing the case could render a decision before the end of the week.
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Carter Sent Roy Dozens of Texts After His Death
The Boston Globe reported that Carter sent more than 80 text messages to Roy's phone after his death. In one, she apologized for not doing enough to stop him from taking his own life. She also expressd her enduring love for him, the paper reports.
“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 wrote.
"But you [expletive] did it and I’m so sorry I didn’t save you,” Carter, now 20, wrote to her deceased boyfriend.
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Carter Is Found Guilty
On Friday, Jude Moniz found Carter guilty of involuntary manslaughter in Roy's death. She cried at the defense table as he addressed her.
"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 said.
"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," Moniz said.
Carter will be sentenced on Aug. 3. It is unclear if she intends to appeal.
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Judge Explains His Decision to Convict
In handing down his guilty finding on Friday, Judge Moniz said his decision was not because of Carter's behavior in the days before Roy's suicide.
Though what Carter did to him was deliberate and reckless, in encouraging him to kill himself, it did not cause his death, Moniz said. Roy conducted his own "extensive" research prior to his suicide and took multiple steps on his own.
However, the judge narrowed in on what Carter, now 20, did right before Roy killed himself in a store parking lot in July 2014, when he called her from outside his pickup truck as he wavered about what to do:
She told him to get back into his vehicle — "which she has reason to know is or is becoming a toxic environment inconsistent with human life," Moniz said, narrating her actions in the present tense.
"She did nothing. She did not call the police or Mr. Roy’s family," he said of Carter. "Finally, she did not issue a simple additional instruction [to Roy]: 'Get out of the truck.' "
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Reaction to the Verdict Varies
Some legal experts were reportedly surprised by Carter's conviction while others condemned the ruling as unconstituional, trespassing the boundaries of free speech.
One of Roy's friends, Mike Harkins, told PEOPLE he was pleased with the outcome, however.
"I think it was a good decision — the right decision," Harkins said. "At the end of the day, she has to live with what happened for the rest of her life."
In a brief statement reportedly made after Friday's conviction, Roy's father, Conrad Roy Jr., said his family was also happy with what happened: “This has been a very tough time for our family and we’d like to process this verdict that we’re happy with."
• With ADAM CARLSON