Deadly Texts: Can Words Kill?

smart phone

Conrad Roy was just 18 years old when he took his own life. His suicide sparked a nationwide conversation because a court found his girlfriend, 17-year-old Michelle Carter guilty of manslaughter. Her weapon? A series of text messages urging Conrad to kill himself. The text messages recovered by police from Michelle Carter’s phone filled 317 pages which now contain the whole tragic story.

“Do you know where he is?” was the first text message Lynn Roy saw the night her son went missing on July 12, 2014. The following morning, July 13th, Lynn received several more text messages, “Did you call the police yet?” Then, “Any news?” The sender was Michelle Carter, the girlfriend of Lynn’s son, Conrad Roy.

Conrad hadn’t come home that morning—which wasn’t like him. Within moments she received the heart-wrenching news from Conrad’s father, “There’s yellow tape around our son’s truck.”

Michelle Carter’s relationship with Conrad was one his mother knew very little about— The two only met in person twice, their two-year relationship occurring mostly over text. Their relationship began in February 2012 when Michelle went to visit her grandparents in Naples, Florida. Conrad was visiting his family just a block away when the two were introduced through their families. What would have been a whirlwind summer fling only continued because of modern technology and social media.

Because of this long-distance relationship, it seemed odd to the Roy family when Michelle Carter showed up on the receiving line after Roy’s death, asking to take home part of his ashes.

Not long after the funeral, Michelle reached out again to the Roy family, this time through Conrad’s little sister, Camdyn. In an email, she pasted some of Conrad’s previous texts to her, “I pray every night that this is a bad dream and I’ll wake up feeling happy and proud of myself and a good kid again… I see the world as a horrible place with a bunch of horrible people. There’s a shortage of good, genuine people like you and me who care.” Michelle ended the message with this note: “Conrad did not kill himself because of bullying like everyone assumes. I know the real reasons.” It was dusk when Conrad pulled his truck out of his mother’s driveway with a water pump he’d collected from his grandfather’s shed. This was all part of the plan that Michelle helped him come up with weeks before.

Michelle: “What about hanging yourself or stabbing yourself?”

Michelle: “Why don’t you just drink bleach?”

Conrad: “Carbon monoxide or helium gas…”

Michelle: “Yeah, it will work. If you emit 3200 ppm of it for five or ten minutes you will die within a half hour. You lose consciousness with no pain. You just fall asleep and die. You can also just take a hose and run that from the exhaust pipe to the rear window in your car and seal it with duct tape and shirts, so it can’t escape. You will die within, like, 20 or 30 minutes, all pain-free.”

She also advised him on the location.

Michelle: “Don’t do it in the driveway. You will be easily found. Find a spot.”

Conrad: “I don’t know. I’m thinking a public place. If I go somewhere private they may call cops.

Michelle: “Well, then someone will notice you.”

Michelle: “Just park your car and sit there and it will take, like, 20 minutes. It’s not a big deal.

On the morning of July 12, she suggested Conrad commit suicide during the day and again pressed him to follow through.

That afternoon, after traveling to the beach with his family and buying his sisters ice cream, Conrad started questioning how he would leave his family. 

Michelle: “Are you gonna do it now?”

Conrad: “I just don’t know how to leave them, you know.”

Michelle: “Say you’re gonna go to the store or something.”

Conrad: “Like, I want them to know that I love them.”

Michelle: “They know. That’s the one thing they definitely know. You’re overthinking.”

Michelle: “I thought you wanted to do this. The time is right and you’re ready, you just need to do it! You can’t keep living this way. You just need to do it like you did last time and not think about it and just do it, babe. You can’t keep doing this every day.”

Conrad: “I do want to, but like I’m freaking out for my family. I guess.”

Michelle: “Conrad. I told you I’ll take care of them. Everyone will take care of them to make sure they won’t be alone and people will help them get through it. We talked about this, they will be okay and accept it. People who commit suicide don’t think this much and they just do it.”

The last text message from Roy was sent at 6:25 p.m. Phone records showed that Conrad called and talked with Michelle twice, each time just over 45 minutes.

The following afternoon, July 13, Conrad was found in a Kmart parking lot, asphyxiated by carbon monoxide from a water pump in the cab of his F-250 truck.

Unlike the text messages, no recording exists of those last two phone calls between them. When the police recovered Conrad’s cell phone from the truck the battery was dead, and police then concluded that Conrad must have died during the second call.

If this suicide had happened in another state, we may not have been any wiser about the extensive texts, but since this happened in Massachusetts, the police follow a procedure that requires all suicides to be processed as a crime. Because of this, there is a transcript of the moments leading up to his death.

What began next would be a groundbreaking trial. On June 16th, 2017 there was not an empty seat as the verdict was reached.

Judge Moniz delivered the following conclusion: “Whether Conrad would have taken his life at another time does not control or even inform this court’s decision. Knowing that Conrad was in the truck— Michelle took no action. She did not call the police or Mr. Roy’s family. She did not notify his mother or his sister, even though just several days before that she had requested their phone numbers. And finally, she did not issue a simple additional instruction: ‘Get out of the truck.’”

Moniz then pronounced her guilty.

Today, in a daytime exclusive interview, Conrad’s mother Lynn and sisters Morgan and Camdyn are here, sharing their thoughts on the verdict and what they hope happens next.