CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses suicide in some detail and may not be appropriate for all audiences. If you’re struggling with thoughts of suicide or self-harm, you are not alone. There is help right now. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is available 24/7, at 800-273-8255.
The latest original series to hit Hulu centers on Michelle Carter, who went to prison for using text messages to encourage her boyfriend, Conrad Roy III, to follow through on a suicide attempt when they were both teenagers living in Massachusetts.
It’s a one-of-a-kind case, and it brings up the question of whether someone can be legally responsible for another person ending their own life. After eight years, the story is back in the spotlight. So, what happened to Michelle Carter, and where is she today?
History of the case
Let’s go back to 2012. Carter and Roy met each other while visiting relatives in Naples, Florida. To their surprise, they were both from the Boston suburbs, only living a little more than 30 miles away from each other. After their trips to Florida, they kept in touch, eventually forming a long-distance relationship, mostly talking over text and email.
However, both Carter and Roy struggled with mental health conditions. Carter reportedly developed an eating disorder from a young age, engaged in self-harm, and was taking medication from the age of 14. Roy also dealt with struggles of his own. According to court documents, he was allegedly physically abused by his father and grandfather and tried to die by suicide in 2012 after his parents divorced.
Despite living in close proximity, the two saw each other in person only a handful of times after meeting in 2012. However, they always talked, exchanging thousands of text messages. After finding out that Roy was considering suicide, Carter actually tried discouraging him and asked Roy to “get professional help.”
Between 2012 and 2014, Roy would attempt suicide several times, by overdosing on over-the-counter medications, drowning, water poisoning, and suffocation. Each time, he either stopped or sought help, court documents say.
But, in 2014, that all changed. Roy was still talking about suicide, even suggesting to Carter they act like “Romeo and Juliet.” Carter then began to encourage Roy to go through with his plan, writing over text:
“Always smile, and yeah, you just have to do it. You have everything you need. There is no way you can fail. Tonight is the night. It’s now or never.”
After some planning between Carter and Roy, Roy put a gasoline-powered water pump in his truck and drove to the parking lot of a K-Mart in Fairhaven, Massachusetts.
Carter had given him instructions, saying, “If you emit 3200 ppm of it for five or ten minutes, you will die within a half hour.”
Roy turned on the generator, allowing the truck to fill with carbon monoxide. While this was happening, Roy spoke to Carter over the phone, but there are no records of what was actually said.
However, court documents show during this time, Roy got out of the truck to breathe fresh air, abandoning another suicide attempt. While he was outside, Carter instructed him to get back in the truck. He did and later died. At this time, Carter never notified emergency services or his family of what was happening.
She did tell her friends she “could have stopped him.”
Trial and aftermath
During her trial, Carter’s attorneys say her text messages fall under the First Amendment and that Roy’s actions were part of an ongoing pattern of mental health issues. The judge disagreed, finding Carter guilty of involuntary manslaughter for her role in his death. She was sentenced to two and a half years but would end up only having to serve 15 months. In January 2020, she was released three months early due to good behavior.
Since her release, she has stayed out of the public eye, but several movies and documentaries have been made about her and Roy’s story. She’s still on probation and will be until August of this year, but part of her conditions include being prohibited from profiting off these projects about her case. She won’t be able to collect any earnings from Hulu’s The Girl From Plainville, which is now streaming.