TAUNTON — Michelle Carter wanted badly to belong, to have friendships that extended outside of school. When it didn’t happen, the teenager felt lonely and worthless, according to text messages she sent to her peers in 2014.
On Wednesday, Carter’s second day on trial for encouraging 18-year-old Conrad Roy III to kill himself, prosecutors sought to portray the high school senior as fixated on elevating her social status and having a vibrant social life.
“Yeah I have school friends that all say they love me ... [but] no one ever asks to hang out with me. No one ever calls me or texts me,” Carter wrote in a text to Samantha Boardman, a fellow student she desperately wanted to befriend. “It’s always me who has to do it.’’
“So when someone actually makes an effort to talk to me and hangout and stuff, it makes me feel so happy,” she added. “And I actually feel important like I’m worth something.”
Carter, now 20, is charged with involuntary manslaughter in Roy’s death in July 2014 for pressuring him to take his own life through dozens of text messages, a controversial and highly unusual prosecution that has drawn national attention.
Roy, who lived in Mattapoisett, killed himself by inhaling a fatal dose of carbon monoxide generated by a pump installed in his truck.
Carter’s lawyers contend that Roy was a deeply troubled teenager who searched the Internet repeatedly for ways to commit suicide. Roy’s mother has testified that her son had attempted to kill himself in 2012 with over-the-counter prescription medication, but that his mental health appeared to improve over the next two years.
On Wednesday, Boardman and three other former students testified that Carter texted them often in an effort to become better friends. They said Carter sent them ingratiating messages saying they were “beautiful” and “amazing,” while sharing her personal struggles with an eating disorder, self-injury, and efforts to find help.
Two days before Roy’s death, the teenagers had reluctantly agreed to sleep over at her house, and Carter thanked them repeatedly for coming and asked when they could get together again, according to their testimony.
While she desperately sought the approval of others, prosecutors say, Carter recklessly persuaded Roy to follow through on plans to kill himself, and even ordered him to get back into his truck when he had second thoughts.
In her messages to Boardman and three other women, Carter appeared to use Roy as a conversation piece, telling her peers she had a boyfriend who was “in a bad place right now.”
In one exchange with former classmate Alexandra Eblan, two days before Roy killed himself, Carter wrote that she was “losing all hope that he’s even still alive.”
Carter told her peers that she listened over the phone as Roy succumbed to the carbon monoxide fumes, admitting she never alerted authorities or his family, prosecutors said.
“I could have stopped him but I told him to get back in the car,” Carter wrote in a text to Boardman. “I knew he would do it all over again. I couldn’t have him living the way he was living anymore.’’
Four days after Roy’s death, Carter texted Ali Eithier, who she met at a summer camp in 2014 and barely knew, that she “was on the phone talking to him when he killed himself. I heard him dying.”
Eithier suggested Carter see a therapist, noting that “I don’t know you very well,” she said.
In other text messages, Carter wrote that she hated the way she looked and wasn’t happy with herself. She had tried to commit suicide, and gone through six therapists.
“If I ever feel like cutting, or if I’m having a problem with eating, can I text you for help?” she wrote Boardman, who replied that she would be there for her.
Carter has been charged as a youthful offender in Bristol Juvenile Court and if convicted faces up to 20 years in prison. But criminal justice specialists predict that prosecutors will have a difficult time proving that Carter caused Roy’s death.
“Most involuntary manslaughter cases involve physical action, but her words and text messages provided the action,” said Daniel Medwed, a professor of law and criminal justice at Northeastern University’s School of Law. “The question is whether her morally despicable behavior constitutes manslaughter under the law, and I don’t know that it does.”
“He was physically free to decide,” said Rosanna Cavallaro, a law professor at Suffolk University. Although Roy was “extraordinarily vulnerable,” Carter’s insistent pressure did not constitute a crime under the existing law, she said.
John Ellement contributed to this report. Jan Ransom can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.