Michelle Carter, of the Teen-Texting Suicide Case, Sentenced to 15 Months Prison Minimum

via morguefile

Conrad Henri Roy III was a marine salvage captain in Massachusetts, working for the company run by his father, uncle and grandfather; the business towed and repaired ships and boats after wrecks or other damage. He earned a captain’s license in early 2014, just a few months before his death, meaning that he could head small vessels on his own per the United States Coast Guard. He graduated on the Honor Roll at his high school in June of 2014 where he had also been on the baseball team, the rowing crew and the track team. He had been accepted to Fitchburg State University but had reportedly decided not to go. He had a history of social anxiety issues as well as depression and had seen multiple therapists and counselors throughout his life. At age 17 he was hospitalized for acetaminophen overdose, the active ingredient in most over-the-counter, low-level pain relievers like Ibuprofen.

Roy met Michelle Carter while both were vacationing with their families in Florida even though they were both from Massachusetts, and had an on-again, off-again, long-distance relationship with her for several years. Roy’s family claimed that the two only met in person 2 or 3 times. Carter had also struggled with her mental health, having a history of possible cutting as well as an acknowledged eating disorder. She had been prescribed psychiatric medication since she was 14 and was in regular counseling.

Court documents revealed that Roy had previously been both physically and verbally abused by members of his family and had previously attempted suicide in 2012 when his parents got divorced. At that time, Carter had discouraged him from killing himself and pushed him to seek professional help for his mental health.

In June of 2014, however, Roy killed himself by letting carbon monoxide fumes fill his truck while parked in a K-Mart parking lot. It soon came out that Roy and Carter had been in communication leading up to his suicide and that she had encouraged him, both through text messages and phone calls, to go through with the suicide. The phone calls to him were described to Carter’s friends in other text messages, according to court documents.

They reportedly spoke on the phone at the time Roy was in his truck and it was filling with the toxic gas.

It has also been revealed that both Roy and Carter, who were minors at the time of the suicide, were taking Celexa. Carter had switched to Celexa from Prozac, which she had been taking since she was 14, a few months prior to Roy’s death. The active ingredient in Celexa, citalopram, has known and stated side-effects that include an increase in suicidal thinking and behavior, especially for those under the age of 24.

In early text exchanges with Roy, a few days prior to his suicide, Carter appeared to discourage him from attempting to kill himself, though she did at one point say “part of me wants you to try something and fail just so you can get help.”

When he responded “It doesn’t help. Trust me,” she seemed to get irritated, replaying: “So what are you gonna do then? Keep being all talk and no action and everyday go thru saying how badly you wanna kill yourself? Or are you gonna try to get better?”

Roy then responds: “I can’t get better I already made my decision.”

It is not these text messages, however, that seem to have sealed Carter’s legal fate; that’s understandable as she is not overtly telling him to go through with it in that exchange.

The next day, in fact, she asksays “please don’t” when he continues to say he wants to kill himself.

Almost a week later, however, they are discussing how he could produce CO in order to kill himself. Carter writes: “well there’s more ways to make CO. Google ways to make it…” This exchange seems to lead to Roy coming up with his ultimate plan as it ends: “portable generators that’s it.”

It’s downhill from tthere. On July 8th, she asks if he’s sure he wants to do it “tonight” and offers to stay up with him if he is going to do it. He says putting it off for one more day “wouldn’t hurt,” to which she responds “You can’t keep pushing it off, tho, that’s all you keep doing.”

On July 11th, she tells him that she thinks the generator would be his best option stating “u can’t fail.”

Other text messages sent between July 4th through the 12th, show Carter accusing him of “putting off” his suicide and saying “You’re gonna have to prove me wrong because I just don’t think you really want this.”

She even states her belief that he’ll come up with “an excuse” for not going through with the suicide. At one point she asks “Do you have the generator?” Roy responds “not yet lol” and she responds, in all caps, “WELL WHEN ARE YOU GETTING IT.”

AsCarter also comforts him at one point by telling him that she bleived that his parents would understand if he committed suicide and would “always carry [him] in their hearts.” She also promises him that she’ll be there for his family after he dies., even repeating that promise when he once again seems to want to back out of his plan. “I’m freaking for my family . I guess,” he writes, to which she responds “Conrad. I told you I’ll take care of them.”

On the day before Roy’s body was found, Carter texts him “If u don’t do it now you’re never gonna do it.”

Right before he starts the process of killing himself, she asks him if he promises that he’s going to “do it today,” saying “u can’t break a promise.”

When he asks “where do I go lol” she tells him to “just go in a quiet parking lot or something.”

Two of Carter’s friends testified in court that Carter had told them she was on the phone with Roy when he died. “Yeah and I was on the phone talking to him when he killed himself. I heard him dying.” Another friend testified that Carter told her that Roy’s death was her fault and that she had told her she could have stopped him.

Other text exchanges allegedly show Carter admitting that she listened to him take his final breaths while they were on the phone.

Carter was convicted of manslaughter was sentenced Thursday afternoon to 15 months in prison by Massachusetts state judge Lawrence Moniz. After 15 months, she will serve 15 months of probation to complete the full two-and-a-half –year sentence handed down by the judge.

Judge Moniz stated: “This court must and has balanced between rehabilitation, the promise that rehabilitation would work and a punishment for the actions that have occurred.”

The decision followed a day of emotional testimony from Roy’s family, including his mother who stated that she supports legislation to make coercing or encouraging suicide a crime.

The case has gotten considerable attention for its uniqueness; there is little if any precedent for such a situation.

It is also an important story about the complexity and dangers of mental illness, psychological and psychiatric treatment.

Prosecutors drove home the fact that Carter did not report Roy’s suicidal desires or his plan and that she didn’t try to stop him in the end.

Carter’s defense attorney called both Roy and Carter “two sad individuals.”

The issue of adulthood and agency came up in the case, as both Roy and Carter were legally minors when the suicide occurred. Carter is still only 17. In arguing that Roy, as a minor, was susceptible to suggestion the prosecution conveniently left out that Carter was also a minor when they argued that she used power, strategy and manipulation over him to get him to kill himself. “It got to the point that he was apologizing to her,” one of them said in closing arguments, “apologizing to her for not being dead yet.” They also cast her as attention-seeking because she reached out to friends she had not formerly been close with to discuss Roy’s suicide. She was characterized as “desperate to play the grieving girlfriend.”

The defense argued that Roy was ultimately responsible for his own death and that Carter was “overwhelmed” by his constant talk of suicide. They also argued that she was also dealing “with all of her [own] baggage” at the time, including the change from Prozac to Celexa with its tendency to enhance suicidal ideations.

Carter’s defense attorney concluded: “It’s sad, it’s tragic. It’s just not a homicide.”

The judge concluded that Carter was mature enough and of enough sound mind to know what she was doing. “She was a bright young lady, did well in school and I am satisfied that she was mindful of the actions for which she now stands convicted.” The sentencing of two-and-a-half-years with 15 months in prison and the rest on probation seems, however, fairly mild in a case where Carter was potentially facing up to 20 years in prison and where her own defense team had asked for 5 years of probation.

Carter is banned from having any contact with the Roy family as well as from using social media. She cannot contact the peers who testified against her, has to submit to regular DNA tests as well as mental health evaluations. The only contact with Roy’s family she will be allowed is in the context of a civil suit, should the family decide to bring one against Carter.

Carter’s attorney successfully argued for the sentence to be stayed, or postponed, until all of her appeals are exhausted. She will have to serve the full sentence in prison if she violates her probation.

If you or someone you know is dealing with suicidal thoughts, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline has every possible resource available, including specialized counselors for everything from LGBTQ community members to youth and people with hearing impairments.

There is also a Crisis Text Line which offers counseling via text message.  

If you or anyone you know is taking Citalopram or other psychiatric medications, pay attention to potential side effects and contact your doctor immediately if you have worsening mood issues or suicidal thoughts and feelings. Contact your doctor before quitting any prescribed medication as sudden withdrawal can also have negative effects. 

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