Girlfriend's killer texts forced boyfriend to his death
Warning: Sensitive content
A gripping new documentary exploring the infamous texting suicide case that shocked the world includes a never heard before police interview with the teenager at the centre of the crime, Michelle Carter.
The story of Carter, who was 17 at the time of the death of Conrad Roy, shone a global spotlight on the justice system that wasn't prepared for one of the first cases of its kind. In a nutshell, the question was: Can you really kill someone over text message?
The prosecution believed Carter did exactly that to her long-distance boyfriend, who was 18.
Carter was sentenced to 15 months in jail in 2017 for her role in Mr Roy's death, but the judge allowed her to remain free while she appealed in state court.
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Massachusetts' highest court upheld her conviction in February this year, saying her actions caused Mr Roy's death.
In dozens of text messages revealed during her sensational trial, Carter pushed Mr Roy, who had mental health issues, to end his life and chastised him when he hesitated.
Documentary director Erin Lee Car, who made the two-part series titled I Love You, Now Die: The Commonwealth vs. Michelle Carter for HBO, discussed why the case fascinated people all over the world.
"Number one: Michelle was a pretty, privileged white woman who seemed to be saying and doing pretty terrible things. So often the perpetrators are male in these high-profile cases," Carr said.
"It was pretty unique in that the female girlfriend, or friend, was the perpetrator.
"Second of all, it was precedent-setting. Can you text somebody and convince them to 'kill themselves', and are you legally responsible for it? The motive seemed pretty unclear."
Carr delves into Carter's possible motives in the documentary, which features interviews with detectives, journalists and Mr Roy's family. Carter has never commented publicly on the case, nor have her parents.
Part one will be available to stream on Foxtel from Saturday night, with the second part dropping next Saturday.
COPS DISCOVER CARTER TEXTS
Mr Roy's body was discovered on July 13, 2014 in his truck in a Kmart parking lot in Fairhaven, Massachusetts. He had committed suicide.
"He was never the type of kid to not come home, so I knew that morning that there was something wrong," Lynn Roy, Mr Roy's mother, says in the documentary.
"I felt this rush go through my body that I've never felt in my life, and I feel like he just passed through me. I've never felt that feeling, it was the most chilling feeling.
"I think if I saw him, his body, I don't think I would've left."
On the surface it looked to his family, and police, like a suicide case. Mr Roy left a journal with suicide notes to his family and had been battling with mental health.
That is until the local Fairhaven police looked at his phone.
"I opened the phone and went right to the message part. There was only one thread open and it said Michelle Carter. I had no idea that meant anything," Detective Scott Gordon says.
"When I clicked to open that actual conversation, I quickly realised the texts were disturbing in nature.
"It was just constant encouragement to take his life. Almost demanding he take his life."
Fairhaven police examined approximately 60,000 items from Mr Roy's phone, including texts, calls, Facebook messages and voicemails.
Carter would explore methods with Mr Roy as to how he should kill himself.
July 12, 2014: Text messages shared the day before Roy's death
Mr Roy: I love you so much
Carter: I love you forever
Mr Roy: I'm in the worst pain right now, like it's unbearable
Carter: I think its time to do it now then. It's OK to be scared and it's normal. I mean, you're about to die
The night of his death, Mr Roy called Carter at 6.20pm and spoke to her for 43 minutes. Around 7.12pm, she called him and they spoke for 47 minutes. During that call, Mr Roy got out of the car and expressed second thoughts about going through with the suicide.
Carter told him to get back in.
Police went to interview Carter at her high school days after Mr Roy's death, an interview that is Carter's only on-record statement about the case.
Detective: Did you have contact with him on the day he passed?
Carter: I think so.
Detective: Did he tell you he was going to do that or anything like that?
Carter: Um, he was talking about it for a while … And he told me that um, no one would be able to help him. I was talking to him on the phone, like the night before, the 12th. We were talking and then the phone hung up. I didn't really think anything of it. I didn't really know what to do. I was just scared for him because I had a feeling this would come up at some point.
Detective: What would?
Carter: What happened …
Detective: We have a search warrant for your phone, OK, so we'll be taking it
Carter: Wait, so you're taking my phone? Do I get it back?
Detective: At some point you will.
Carter was indicted on February 4, 2015 and arraigned the following day on charges of involuntary manslaughter in Massachusetts.
Her trial began in June 2017.
One month before Mr Roy's death, he recorded a video log about his extreme struggle with social anxiety and depression. His parents said his grades had been slipping, he was experiencing racing thoughts and was losing his memory.
"We were bringing him to doctors and psychologists and trying to figure out what was going wrong," Mr Roy's dad, Conrad Roy II, says.
In Mr Roy's video log, he acknowledges a desire to get better following previous suicide attempts.
"A lot of people tell me I have a lot going for me. I have to be happy. I have to be happy," he says to the camera.
"Well no, you don't have to be happy.
"There's people that love me. I have a great mum. A great dad for the most part. But I'm still depressed.
"I feel like I'm differently wired from everyone else, like there's something wrong with me.
"If I keep talking, keep talking, it's gonna get better."
His mum says in the documentary she had no idea he was having suicidal thoughts.
"If I knew he was feeling or thinking that way, yeah, I would've had him handcuffed to my car and brought him to a hospital. But I just thought he was doing well," she says.
He hatched a friendship with Carter in 2012 after they met visiting relatives in Florida.
They only saw each other in person a couple of times in the course of three years, and shared a predominantly online relationship, despite only living 56km apart.
CARTER KILLED CONRAD TO BE POPULAR
Throughout her trial, there was a predominant notion Carter craved popularity.
Several messages were unearthed of her being needy to her school peers and begging for friends. She also claimed several times she had no friends and no one wanted to hang out with her.
Two days before Mr Roy's death, Carter initiated a "dry run" on one of the girls at her school to see if she would garner sympathy for his death, a court head during her trial.
She realised her friends rushed to her aid, and she was encouraged to go through with pushing Mr Roy to commit suicide, the prosecution said.
After his death, Carter was "getting (the) attention she's been craving. She is the grieving girlfriend. People were texting her, consoling her, suddenly she seemed important," the prosecution argued.
After Mr Roy's death, Carter hosted a fundraiser "Homers for Conrad" in her home town of Plainville despite it being a 50-minute drive from Mr Roy's family and friends in Mattapoisett.
One of Mr Roy's best friends questioned her about moving the event so it could be hosted closer to Mr Roy's family and friends, to which she responded "you're not trying to steal credit are you haha" before refusing to move it.
Carter's lawyer, Joseph Cataldo, argued his client did not break any laws, and the trial would set a "dangerous" precedent around free speech.
"Whether it's the right thing, wrong thing, moral thing, immoral thing, what I'm certain of is it wasn't a crime," he says in the documentary.
"There's no law that criminalises encouragement of suicide in Massachusetts.
"The idea that your speech alone in the way of text messages can equal a manslaughter charge is a dangerous precedent."
TEXT THAT MADE CONRAD'S MUM SUSPICIOUS
Lynn revealed in the documentary she had no idea what Carter was doing, saying she actually thanked her for being there for her son.
"I told her 'I'm so glad my son had someone like you in his life'. I thought she was very sweet and compassionate and loving.
"Why would you ever think someone would think the way she does."
Then Carter sent Lynn a text that raised a red flag.
"She messaged me and said, 'You tried your hardest, I tried my hardest', and I thought, excuse my language, but what the f**k is she talking about?
"I tried to save him? I had no idea he was feeling that way.
"It's weird because just before he passed I said to him, 'I know how girls can be. Girls can be very manipulative'.
"I never realised my son would be taken advantage in the worst way possible."
Carter also asked Mr Roy's sister, Camdyn, if she could have some of his ashes.
THE LATEST NEWS ON THE CASE
On Monday this week, Carter's lawyers called her conviction "unprecedented" and said her case raised crucial questions about whether "words alone" were enough to hold someone responsible for another person's suicide, urging the US Supreme Court to hear her appeal.
"Michelle Carter did not cause Conrad Roy's tragic death and should not be held criminally responsible for his suicide," Daniel Marx, one of her lawyers, said in an emailed statement. "This petition focuses on just two of the many flaws in the case against her that raise important federal constitutional issues for the US Supreme Court to decide."
Carter was jailed in February after Massachusetts' highest court unanimously upheld her conviction in the death of the then-18-year-old Roy. Carter, now 22, is serving a 15-month sentence.
I Love You, Now Die: The Commonwealth vs. Michelle Carter premieres on Fox Showcase tonight at 8.30pm