NEW BEDFORD — She professed her love for him and promised to care for his grieving family when he was gone. All he had to do, she said, was take some Benadryl and let a combustion engine poison him with carbon monoxide. A life without pain awaited in heaven, she said.
“You have to just do it. . . . Tonight is the night. It’s now or never,” said one of the text messages Michelle Carter, then 17, is alleged to have sent to Conrad Henri Roy III in the days before his 2014 suicide.
The text message, among thousands the pair was said to have exchanged before Roy, 18, was found dead from carbon monoxide poisoning in his truck in Fairhaven on July 13, 2014, has become public as Bristol County prosecutors fight a defense request to have the involuntary manslaughter case against Carter thrown out.
Bristol County Juvenile Court Judge Bettina Borders heard arguments from both sides Monday, but did not rule.
Earlier this year, a grand jury indicted Carter, now 18, charging her with involuntary manslaughter in connection with the death of Roy, who lived in Mattapoisett. Prosecutors allege Carter urged Roy to kill himself and told him by phone to “get back in” his truck after he stepped out as carbon monoxide began to overtake him, court papers show.
Carter, of Plainville, is being tried as a youthful offender and has pleaded not guilty.
She met Roy several years ago while visiting relatives in Florida, Roy’s paternal grandmother said. The relatives Carter and Roy were visiting lived in the same neighborhood, she said.
Carter and Roy kept in touch through cellphone and online communication, prosecutors said.
At the time of his death, Roy had seen Carter in person only two or three times and their last meeting had taken place more than a year earlier, defense attorney Joseph P. Cataldo said.
In the text messages, Carter told Roy she loved him “to the moon and back” and that his family would recover from his suicide.
The day he killed himself, Roy texted Carter that he worried about leaving his family, court papers show.
“I do want to but I’m like freaking for my family I guess,” he wrote.
“Conrad, I told you I’ll take care of them,” Carter responded. “Everyone will take care of them to make sure they won’t be alone and people will help them get through it.”
Days earlier, Carter asked Roy why he had not killed himself yet, prosecutors said.
“When are you going to do it,” she asked. “Stop ignoring the question.”
After Roy’s suicide, Carter sent text messages to Roy’s family members in which she implied she had no knowledge of the other teen’s plans, prosecutors said.
Roy had attempted suicide two years before his death by ingesting acetaminophen and was treated with medication, counseling, and hospitalizations at psychiatric facilities, Cataldo, the defense lawyer, said.
Before killing himself, Roy twice proposed he and Carter commit suicide together, Cataldo said.
“At one point he tells her, ‘Let’s do a Romeo and Juliet. The two of us together. Kill ourselves,’ ” he said in court, according to a recording of the proceedings.
His client refused. “We are not dying,” he quoted her as saying.
Carter, Cataldo said, had tried to convince Roy to get help, but at some point she gave in and backed his suicide plan. In June 2014, Carter was treated at McLean Hospital, a psychiatric treatment center, and encouraged Roy to seek assistance, he said.
Cataldo declined to specify the reason for Carter’s treatment.
“He has in fact brainwashed her to the point where she’s now accepting his idea,” Cataldo said during the hearing.
In a phone interview, Cataldo said Carter’s conduct was not criminal. Roy, he said, caused his own death and Carter did not take any physical actions to cause his suicide. Her text messages are protected by the First Amendment and, further, state law does not say it is a crime to encourage another person to commit suicide, he said.
“There is not a statute about encouraging or assisting suicide, so there’s a long reach,” Cataldo said in court. “And we’re now trying to apply manslaughter to speech and that is way overboard . . . and should be protected by the First Amendment.”
Assistant Bristol District Attorney Katie Rayburn said Carter’s own comments show she knew her actions were illegal.
The prosecutor cited a text message Carter sent to a friend after Roy’s death in which she fretted about investigators reading their communications.
“They read my messages with him. I’m done,” the text said. “His family will hate me and I can go to jail.”
Rayburn also said Carter asked Roy shortly before he committed suicide whether he had deleted their text messages.
“Her speech is not protected,” Rayburn said in court. “She is telling him to commit a violent act against himself.”
Roy’s grandmother, Janice Roy, said Carter was wrong when she claimed Roy’s family would recover.
“It’s a wound [where] the knife is going deeper and deeper every day,” she said.
His other grandmother, Madeleine Bozzi, said she wishes Carter and Roy never met.
“This should have never happened to him,” she said. “He was sick and he believed everything she said.”
Laura Crimaldi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi.