Conrad Roy, a popular, funny athlete who struggled with depression, had attempted suicide before. But this final time, before carbon monoxide creeping into his idling truck on July 12, 2014, fatally poisoned him, the 18-year-old from Fairhaven, Mass., reached out to the one friend in whom he’d confided – Michelle Carter. According to police, Roy told Carter, now 18, that he was scared and didn’t want to abandon his family. And from the parking lot where his body would be found the next day, he said he was leaving his truck. “Get back in,” came Carter’s reply.
To Roy’s family and friends, what Carter did is unforgivable. “When he needed the most help, she did the opposite,” his friend Evelyn Murdock tells PEOPLE. To police, it’s criminal. Carter, a high school senior in nearby Plainville, Mass., could now face 20 years in prison on involuntary manslaughter charges. (She has pleaded not guilty.) The police report released at Carter’s Feb. 6 arraignment cites more than 1,000 messages that she and Roy traded in the week before his suicide. “Michelle Carter not only encouraged Conrad to take his own life, she questioned him repeatedly as to when and why he hadn’t done it yet,” Det. Scott Gordon wrote. In a statement to PEOPLE, Carter’s parents, David and Gail, said their “quiet, kind and sympathetic young girl” will be proven innocent. Their lawyer Joe Cataldo said Carter was too young to deal with Roy’s suicidal talk: “She did not know what to do when she heard that he wanted to kill himself. This is a tragedy, but it is not a crime.”
Roy’s other friends, meanwhile, are left haunted by what-ifs for the boy who dreamed of captaining his own boat someday. “Conrad spoke to that one wrong person,” says former classmate Louie Pina. “If he’d talked to anyone other than Michelle, he’d still be here.”