8 Years After Teen Suicide Texting Tragedy, Conrad Roy's Parents Speak Out: 'No Parent Should Go Through This'

A new Hulu TV limited series revisits the conviction of Michelle Carter, who was 17 when her texts encouraged a clinically depressed Conrad Roy III to kill himself in 2014

Conrad Roy III.

On the day he took his life, 18-year-old Conrad Roy III walked with his mom on a Massachusetts beach and they talked about his future.

"There was a bunch of people flying kites, and it was just a beautiful day," recalls his mother, Lynn St. Denis. Although Conrad struggled with depression and social anxiety, he recently had achieved a personal milestone, earning his sea captain's license to work in marine towing and salvage alongside his dad. The high school grad also had been accepted to Fitchburg State University.

Still, on that July 12, 2014, Lynn says he was unsure which path to pursue. "You don't have to make that decision now," she gently assured him. "It's not an urgency."

But two other memories of that day also are prominent in Lynn's mind, and haunt her still.

In one, Conrad interrupted their walk to go sit in the car; Lynn assumed he wanted cell phone reception to check his texts, an action she deemed insignificant at the time but which later took on enormous weight. In the other, after Conrad took his two younger sisters, Camdyn and Morgan, out for ice cream, mother and son chatted some more while Lynn washed dishes in their Fairhaven, Mass., home before Conrad simply said goodbye on his way out the door. Hours later he was found in his pickup parked behind a Kmart, dead from carbon monoxide poisoning.

"Why didn't he give me a hug," Lynn says in this week's issue of PEOPLE, "if he knew he was never going to see me again?"

Conrad Roy
Conrad Roy III with his mother, Lynn St. Denis. Courtesy Lynn St Denis

Only months later did she learn the content of texts Conrad received that day. Sent by then 17-year-old Michelle Carter, another emotionally struggling teen who portrayed herself as Conrad's girlfriend, they had urged Conrad toward his death.

A controversial charge put Michelle on trial for involuntary manslaughter. Prosecutors said she not only researched plans for Conrad's suicide but pushed him to go through with it when he wavered. She was convicted in 2017 and sent to prison, where she served 11 months.

To read more about how Conrad Roy III's parents fight to keep his memory alive, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, or subscribe here.

Now, almost eight years after Conrad died, the tragedy is the subject of a new Hulu limited series, The Girl From Plainville, debuting March 29. Lynn hasn't seen the series but frets about its focus on Michelle over her son, and worries "there may be an attempt to defend some of her needless and evil actions."

Yet Lynn also hopes the moment will draw attention to her work with lawmakers to make Massachusetts the 43rd state to criminalize suicide coercion, with a penalty of up to five years in prison. The proposed bill is called Conrad's Law.

Conrad Roy
Conrad Roy Jr., at left, with his son Conrad Roy III in 2014.

Both Lynn and Conrad's father, Conrad Jr., envision the legislation as more deterrent than punishment.

"I don't want another family to deal with what I had to deal with," says Lynn.

Adds Conrad Jr.: "No parent should go through this."

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Conrad and Michelle had met in 2012, when their respective families were vacationing separately in Florida. Living an hour apart in Massachusetts, they began a friendship that played out almost exclusively through emails and texts — and in those exchanges, they became each others' confidantes to share otherwise private pain, according to messages found after Conrad died.

Lynn Roy
Lynn St. Denis lobbying in 2019 for "Conrad's Law" to criminalize suicide coercion. Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe/Getty

"Conrad, he was a sweet boy that lost his way," says his father. "He was just so, so happy until he became depressed."

While his anguished parents sought help for their son — who attempted suicide by downing a bottle of over-the-counter pain reliever when he was 17 — neither had any idea of the influence Michelle had achieved in Conrad's life. But seeing her convicted "doesn't matter," says Conrad Jr. "Nothing's going to bring my son back."

Sentenced at her trial to serve 15 months, Michelle was released in January 2020 after 11 months, with credit for good behavior. "I was surprised that she even got 11 months," Lynn says.

But Michelle does not fill Lynn's thoughts now. "We had to be the voice for him," she says. "So yes, I was satisfied that she was convicted."

"I wanted to make a point that his life mattered, and that was the most important thing to me," she says. "I wish I knew how he felt when she was messaging that whole month [before Conrad died]. I wish I knew what he was thinking. Was she really a friend, or did she really care about him? I mean, for someone to do what she did, how could he think that she cared?"

"He was just a vulnerable teenager that suffered from social anxiety and depression," Lynn says. By turning her attention to Conrad's Law and the conversations that she hopes it can prompt about mental illness, she wants to "encourage helping as opposed to hurting those who are hurting the most," she says.

"You never now how badly someone is hurting," she says, "despite what they show on the exterior."

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go tosuicidepreventionlifeline.org.

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