In July 2014, Conrad Roy III drove his truck to a deserted supermarket car park in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, and gassed himself to death. But this wasn’t an ordinary suicide. It happened after his girlfriend Michelle Carter bombarded him with hundreds of texts pushing him to end his life. Could she ultimately be held responsible?
Conrad Roy III was struggling. Aged just 18, he suffered with anxiety and depression, and had even attempted suicide.
But, when he met Michelle Carter, 17, while on a family holiday in Florida in 2012, it appeared that he’d found a kindred spirit.
Michelle struggled with her body image, and also took medication for anxiety and depression.
The pair lived just 35 miles apart, in the state of Massachusetts. But, back home, they mostly stayed in touch via text and on Facebook Messenger.
As the bond between them grew, Conrad decided to confide in Michelle that he was considering self-harm and even suicide to end his mental anguish.
At first, Michelle was sympathetic and supportive. She urged him to seek help from a mental hospital, and begged him not to self-harm.
I hate myself, I’ll always hate myself, Conrad wrote.
What is harming yourself gonna do? Nothing. It will make it worse, came Michelle’s pleading response.
But, over the next couple of weeks, something changed. Michelle’s replies to Conrad switched from being comforting to downright disturbing.
She began to send text after text, pressurising him to take his own life.
So are you sure you don’t wanna [kill yourself] tonight? she asked him.
Idk [I don’t know] yet, I’ll let you know, Conrad replied.
Because I’ll stay up with you if you want to do it tonight, Michelle offered, in a chilling response.
Another day wouldn’t hurt, Conrad texted back.
You can’t keep pushing it off, tho, that’s all you keep doing, she replied.
Over the following days, the pair decided that the best way for Conrad to end his life would be to suffocate himself with carbon monoxide in his car.
Michelle began to harass him about when he was going to buy it and follow through with the suicide plan.
On multiple occasions, Conrad expressed doubts about whether or not he really wanted to die.
But, instead of being pleased, Michelle reacted angrily towards him – and worked to persuade him that it was his only option.
You’re gonna have to prove me wrong, because I just don’t think you really want this. You just keep pushing it off to another night and say you’ll do it but you never do, she said.
She then went on to convince Conrad that his parents wouldn’t feel depressed about his death.
Everyone will be sad for a while, but they will get over it and move on, she texted.
On 12 July 2014, Michelle continued to send message after message asking when Conrad was going to carry out his plan.
Whenever he seemed to be hesitating, Michelle urged him on.
Finally, Conrad gave in and said he was going ahead.
Do you promise? she asked.
I promise, babe, he replied.
So, later that day, Conrad drove his truck to an empty supermarket car park, – just as Michelle had advised him to do.
He slowly allowed his car to fill up with lethal carbon monoxide gas.
But, at the last minute, he had second thoughts and jumped out of the truck.
He texted Michelle to confess that he was scared. But, instead of stopping him or calling the police, she ordered him to get back into the truck.
Tragically, he did as she said – and, eventually, he slipped away.
Conrad’s parents reported him missing later that day, and his body was soon found.
Michelle took to Twitter to express her shock and grief: I will never understand why this had to happen.
Shortly after, the messages between Michelle and Conrad were discovered on his phone.
One from Michelle, on the day of Conrad’s death, said: The time is right and you are ready…just do it, babe.
A police investigation was launched, and Michelle was arrested.
In June 2017, at Taunton Juvenile Court, Massachusetts, Michelle Carter, 20, denied involuntary manslaughter.
Over six days, her texts to and from Conrad were revealed to the court.
‘It got to the point that he was apologising to her…for not being dead yet,’ the prosecutor told the court, speaking of the huge influence Michelle seemed to have over Conrad.
But Michelle’s defence team said that she, too, was mentally troubled. Her lawyers argued that the prescription drugs she was taking for her mental-health issues had resulted in her erratic behaviour.
Calling Michelle ‘psychotic, deluded and out of touch’, the defence team said she was ‘involuntarily intoxicated’ by the medication, which targeted the parts of the brain that control decision-making and empathy.
Testifying, psychiatrist Dr Breggin said, ‘She was enmeshed in the delusion that it’s a good thing to help him die.’
The defence argued that Conrad was the only one responsible for his death, saying, ‘You’re dealing with an individual who wanted to take his own life… He dragged Michelle Carter into this.’
Michelle waived her right to a trial by jury, so it was up to a judge to decide her fate.
But could she be convicted for involuntary manslaughter, based solely on the texts she’d sent?
And did it matter that she hadn’t actually been with Conrad when he took his final breaths?
In June 2017, Judge Lawrence Moniz found Michelle Carter guilty of involuntary manslaughter. A key factor was Carter’s lack of action at the crucial time when Conrad Roy was in the car and minutes from death.
Conrad’s dad, also called Conrad, issued a statement saying, ‘This has been a very tough time for our family and we’d like to process this verdict that we’re happy with.’
Conrad’s mum Lynn said of Carter, ‘I don’t believe she has a conscience. I think she needs to be held responsible.’
Carter was given a two-and-a-half-year jail sentence, and is free on probation, pending appeal.