Death by Text:The groundbreaking case against Michelle Carter in the death of Conrad Roy

Produced by Ruth Chenetz, Jamie Stolz, Marcelena Spencer, Liza Finley and Susan Mallie

[This story first aired on June 16. It was updated on Aug. 5.]

It’s a crime of our time — texts as a murder weapon.

On August 3, a Massachusetts woman was sentenced to 15 months in jail for using text messages to encourage her friend to commit suicide. In June, Michelle Carter, now 20, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the 2014 death of 18-year-old Conrad Roy III.

Carter and Roy met in 2012. Though they lived an hour apart in Massachusetts, they communicated almost exclusively via texts, online and by phone. It’s a case that’s been followed nationwide because it hinges on the power of words – Carter’s words – and whether they could be deadly.

On June 13, 2014, Conrad Roy recorded a video of himself on his computer. In the video, he discussed his battle with depression, suicidal thoughts, and social anxiety.  At one point, he said, “I need to be comfortable in my skin.  And in order to be comfortable in my skin, I have to just be happy and live with myself for who I am: Conrad Roy III.”

One month before 18-year-old Conrad Roy took his own life, when the minds of many teens wander to carefree summer days, Conrad’s thoughts were more serious and introspective:

Conrad Roy [on video talking to computer]: It’s not realistic what’s going on in my head that keeps on piling and piling and piling.

Conrad Roy [on video talking to computer]: I need to be comfortable in my skin.

Sitting at his computer in his home in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, Conrad recorded his thoughts on coping with his depression.

Conrad Roy [on video talking to computer]: I need to relax. I really do.

Lynn Roy: He wanted to excel. He was — just wanted to … be this, like, great person. But in my eyes, he was all that.

In her only television interview, Conrad’s mother, Lynn Roy, explains that her son could be his own toughest critic. 

Lynn Roy:  He was rough on himself.  …he really, really struggled with — just disappointing I think myself and his dad.

Conrad Roy [on video talking to computer]: The sooner I like myself, the better I’ll be

Lynn Roy thought her son was feeling better; he was getting professional help and was on an antidepressant, Celexa. He’d been licensed to be tug boat captain, like his dad, and had just graduated high school. College, with a scholarship, was on the…

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