She Allegedly Coaxed Her Boyfriend to Kill Himself. Now She's on Trial

Jun 07, 2017

A 20-year-old Massachusetts woman is on trial for manslaughter after prosecutors say she coaxed her teenaged boyfriend to kill himself so she could elicit attention and sympathy as a “grieving girlfriend.”

Michelle Carter was 17 when prosecutors say she encouraged her 18-year-old boyfriend Conrad Roy III to commit suicide by staying inside his running pickup truck as it filled with carbon monoxide. Carter, who is not being tried by a jury, awaits a judge’s verdict in her juvenile court trial, which began Tuesday. She faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Here’s what to know about the case.

What happened?

Roy died of carbon monoxide poisoning in July 2014. His body was found inside his truck at a parking lot outside of a store, authorities said. Prosecutors said Carter pushed him to follow through with his suicide attempt through text messages. "The time is right and you're ready, you just need to do it!” she allegedly wrote to him, according to the Associated Press.

At one point, Carter left the truck only to be told by his girlfriend to “get the f--k back in,” prosecutor Maryclare Flynn said at the trial, according to NBC News. “Her behavior was wanton and reckless and because of her, Conrad is dead,” Flynn said.

Carter allegedly told her boyfriend he would be “free and happy” afterward, according to ABC News. Carter did not alert authorities or Roy’s family while he sat in the truck, Flynn said.

The prosecutor said Carter posted about her boyfriend’s death on Facebook and “the floodgates for her opened.”

“She suddenly became important: the grieving girlfriend,” Flynn said, according to NBC.

What does Carter’s lawyer argue?

Roy was depressed after his parents split and “was on this path to take his own life for years,” according to Carter’s defense attorney Joseph Cataldo. "It was Conrad Roy's idea to take his own life. It was not Michelle Carter's idea,” Cataldo said. “This was a suicide, a sad and tragic suicide, but not a homicide."

The attorney said Carter also had mental health issues and was on medication that may have affected her judgment, the AP reports.

What does Roy’s family say?

Roy's mother, Lynn Roy, took the stand Tuesday and said her son never showed signs or hinted that he planned to take his own life. "I knew he was a little depressed but I thought it, he was doing great,” she testified, according to ABC. “I mean he just graduated from high school, got his captain’s license and I thought everything was moving forward, not backward.”

Lynn Roy said Carter reached out to her multiple times after her son’s death but never mentioned anything about his suicide plans.

Carter and Roy met in 2012 and lived about 30 miles away from each other in Massachusetts. However, during their two-year relationship, the couple mostly communicated through text messages and phone calls and only met up three times, according to NBC.

"She used Conrad as a pawn in a sick game of life and death for attention," Flynn said.

All products and services featured are based solely on editorial selection. TIME may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website.