Last July, an 18-year-old Massachusetts man named Conrad Roy III killed himself by placing a gas-powered water pump in his pickup truck and letting the carbon monoxide consume him. Prosecutors say that Roy’s girlfriend, 17-year-old Michelle Carter, spent months convincing Roy to commit suicide, and text messages between the two entered in court make a compelling and sad case that she did.
According to prosecutors, as outlined by writer Abby Pillip in an extensive Washington Post story, Carter and Roy had known each other since 2012. Their romance was mostly an online one—according to Carter’s lawyer, the two had met each other in person just a few times. Per Phillip, Roy had tried killing himself in the past, and though his family thought he might be putting that behind him, by 2014, his conversations with Carter returned frequently to his suicide, often under her direction.
Here are some of Carter’s texts to Roy, and a few of their conversations, as highlighted by Phillip:
“You always say you’re gonna do it, but you never do. I just want to make sure tonight is the real thing.”
“You can’t keep pushing it off, though. That’s all you keep doing.”
“There isn’t anything anyone can do to save you, not even yourself.”
ROY: How was your day?
CARTER: When are you doing it?
After Roy had told Carter that he had a good day:
CARTER: That’s great. What did you do?
ROY: Ended up going to work for a little bit and then just looked stuff up.
CARTER: When are you gonna do it? Stop ignoring the question???
Eventually, the talk about Carter’s suicide progressed so far that the two began discussing methods in which he could end his life. According to Phillip, Roy proposed suffocation via carbon monoxide, but then thought it might not work, at which point Carter revealed how much research she had devoted to her boyfriend’s potential suicide:
Roy thought about using a tube to channel the exhaust from his truck’s tailpipe into the vehicle but realized that the diesel engine emitted lower levels of carbon monoxide that might make failure more likely.
Carter was confident that it would work and told him why.
“If you emit 3200 ppm of it for five or ten minutes, you will die within a half hour,” she told him. “You lose consciousness with no pain. You just fall asleep and die.”
But, Phillip writes, Carter was suspicious of the plan to run a tube from the exhaust into Roy’s truck because she thought it would be too easy for him to chicken out:
But Carter didn’t love that idea, either, because she feared that Roy would make up an “excuse” to explain why it didn’t work.
“I bet you’re gonna be like ‘oh, it didn’t work because I didn’t tape the tube right or something like that,’” she texted him. “You always seem to have an excuse.”
Eventually the two thought he could use a generator to produce the carbon monoxide, and when Roy told Carter that he hadn’t procured one yet, she texted him, “WELL WHEN ARE YOU GETTING IT?” Phillip writes that when Roy found his father’s broken generator, she encouraged him to get it repaired. If that failed, Carter thought Roy could just do it some other way: “I’d try the bag or hanging. Hanging is painless and take like a second if you do it right.”
Early on July 12, 2014, Carter and Roy were once again discussing the deed. “You can’t think about it. You just have to do it,” she wrote. “I’m gonna eventually,” he said back. “I really don’t know what I’m waiting for but I have everything lined up.”
According to Phillip, Carter suggested that Roy take Benadryl to make the process easier, and that he think about going to an empty parking lot before the sun came up. At some point later that night, he did just that. He parked at a Kmart, flipped on the water pump sitting in his truck, and died.
In texts from that night with a friend, Carter says that she was talking to Roy as he sat in his truck, and could have told him to stop if she had wanted to. Carter says that at one point Roy got out of the truck as the fumes billowed out of the pump but she told him to get back in.
“Like, honestly I could have stopped it,” Carter texted Samantha months later. “I was on the phone with him and he got out of the car” because the carbon monoxide was working, she said. She added that she “told him to get back in.”
Carter’s attorney, for his part, is arguing that this narrative is backwards. He says that Carter was “persuaded” by the older boy, and that eventually he got her to “endorse his plan.” Publicly, Carter tried to put a good face on the story, too. Phillip reports that on Facebook, Carter wrote, “Even though I could not save my boyfriend’s life, I want to put myself out here to try to save as many other lives as possible.”
But text messages from Carter appear to belie that version of the events. There are the texts in which Carter says she “could have stopped it.” Phillip also writes that Carter asked Roy to delete their text conversation before he died. In a text to another friend, Carter seemed to understand that trouble awaited her: “[If the police] read my messages with him I’m done.”
[image via AP]