DARTMOUTH — Michelle Carter, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in her boyfriend’s suicide in a case that drew national attention, walked out of the Bristol County House of Correction in Dartmouth Thursday before a throng of media.
Carter, now 23, was 17 when she sent Conrad Roy III text messages urging him to kill himself in July 2014, even after he told her he was too scared to do it. Roy was 18. At a bench trial in June 2017, Judge Lawrence Moniz found Carter guilty and sentenced her to 15 months in jail.
At about 9:30 a.m. Thursday, a sheriff’s office employee opened a gate to the women’s section of the jail with a loud clang. Carter walked out, wearing the same gray jacket and black turtleneck she had the day of her booking, surrounded by three sheriff’s employees. She was hidden behind an employee carrying two large plastic bags containing her personal belongings, which were put into a black Jeep as she climbed into the back seat, where her mother was waiting.
Carter bowed her head into her mother, who embraced her. She was quickly driven away with an escort from the sheriff’s office.
Bristol County Sheriff Thomas M. Hodgson said Carter, who has been in his department’s custody since February, was released early in accordance with state law. She earned time off her sentence by holding a job and participating in programs at the jail, including education and gardening, he said. Staff did not report disciplinary issues with her.
“I think by keeping busy the way she did, she was able to integrate very, very well,” Hodgson said.
Hodgson emphasized that his department does not determine sentence lengths or early release for Carter or any other person in their custody. He did not have any personal interactions with Carter, he said.
“I feel for the [Roy] family,” Hodgson said. “It’s a very, very sad case. I understand that there’s emotion.”
Carter has been at the Women’s Center here since February, save for one month in the summer where she was in a different location but still in the custody of the sheriff’s office, sheriff’s spokesman Jonathan Darling said. He declined to say where she was for that month.
The day before Carter’s release a sheriff’s spokesman sent out a media advisory with a map of the jail, highlighting areas where crews could park and set up their cameras. About 40 reporters came Thursday morning, standing on a knoll near the rotary in front of an administration building, waiting.
Women inside the jail occasionally called out to the group through a window, but their voices were drowned out by the sound of helicopters hovering overhead.
Hodgson noted that Carter, who has been the subject of frenzied media coverage and true-crime documentaries, is not the first high-profile inmate the jail has had. The Bristol County Sheriff’s Office was also charged with keeping Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriots player, before his conviction for the murder of Odin Lloyd. Hernandez died by suicide at a different facility, the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley.
“You always have to be aware of two things,” Hodgson said. “One is their mental state when they enter the facility, because of the notoriety and press coverage. It’s a little more difficult, we have to be very sensitive and careful about how they’re acclimating from the a mental health standpoint. As well as the safety concerns about the security and the environment, that no one inside the facility who is being incarcerated with that individual would perhaps try to raise their profile by doing something to harm them."
Carter’s release comes 10 days after the US Supreme Court declined to review her case.
Carter and Roy met in Naples, Fla., in 2012, while they were both on family vacations. She lived in Plainville and he in Mattapoisett, and though they referred to one another as boyfriend and girlfriend, the bulk of their interactions were over text messages and Facebook. They only met in person a few times.
Roy died of carbon monoxide inhalation in his pickup truck, at a parking lot in Fairhaven. Carter was on the phone with him, listening as he died.
Roy had told Carter about his suicidal thoughts and she seemed to encourage him, something that did not rise to the level of criminal behavior, Moniz ruled in 2017.
The deciding factor in Carter’s guilt, Moniz said, was Carter’s command that Roy go back into his truck, which was filled with deadly fumes, and her failure to call for help or try and stop Roy as he died. That rose to level of criminal behavior, Moniz said.
The case drew attention in part because of the rarity of prosecuting one person for another’s suicide. Carter was 30 miles away when Roy died, and the defense had argued in part that she should not be convicted based on her words alone.
In February 2019, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upheld Carter’s conviction and sentence, saying she acted with criminal intent as she “badgered” Roy into suicide.
If you are having thoughts of suicide or self-harm, or know someone who is, help is available through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 and the Samaritans hotline, 1-877-870-HOPE (4673).