The case of Michelle Carter, who urged her teenage boyfriend toward suicide over texts and phone calls and now is serving 15 months in jail, remains controversial two years after her conviction.
On Monday her attorneys asked the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out the 2017 conviction for involuntary manslaughter. And on Wednesday, HBO concluded its two-part broadcast of the documentary I Love You, Now Die: The Commonwealth v. Michelle Carter, which tracks the events before and after 18-year-old Conrad Roy III took his life in July 2014 and Carter, then 17, told a friend that she herself was to blame.
Roy had long battled social anxiety and depression before he killed himself with carbon monoxide poisoning by running a hose from a gas-powered generator into the cab of his pickup truck. Carter, now 22, was also a teen who struggled with mental health issues: She had also been prescribed antidepressants, and the two Massachusetts teens who lived an hour apart shared a relationship mostly through social media after crossing paths on vacation two years earlier.
Their tragic entanglement received a fresh look in director Erin Lee Carr‘s documentary, which had several startling revelations.
Roy Attempted Suicide at Least Four Times Before Taking His Own Life
After he overdosed on acetaminophen, “he almost needed a liver transplant,” his mom, Lynn Roy, says in the film. “He said, ‘I promise you, I’ll never do that again.’ I said, ‘you know that if you died, mom would want to die, too. You know that, right?'”
In a text to Carter, Roy told her: “Overdosing on pills doesn’t work.”
In another he wrote: “If I’m gonna overdose on pills it’s gonna be sleeping pills.”
Roy’s Dad Was Arrested After Violent Incident With His Son
Roy’s parents were divorced and he was living with his dad when Mattapoisett, Massachusetts, police responded to an alleged assault call described by Officer Justin King, who said the teen’s face “was swollen red and he had some lacerations to his face.”
In his statement to police, the teen wrote: “Told Dad I would put pan of mac & cheese away after commercial of basketball game. … he said do it now. He punched me repeatedly and pinned me down. I couldn’t get up. … His girlfriend said I was a piece of s—.”
His father, Conrad Roy Jr., says in the documentary: “You think it’s kind of embarrassing, but you know, it doesn’t really matter. I know what happened that night with my son, and I know, like, I was being a parent, and I know things got out of control, and we both fought each other. And I’d do it again, just like that. .. Like sometimes my father would say, ‘if you ever take a swing at me, you’re gonna get it, make sure you don’t ever do that again.’ And I just felt like I had to do the same thing.”
The disposition of the case is not clear. PEOPLE’s call to Mattapoisett police was not immediately returned. According to Oxygen.com, Chief Mary Lyons told the network, “In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts domestic incidents are exempt from the public records.”
Roy’s Mom Blamed Herself for Allowing So Much Contact Between Her Son and His Dad
In a text to Carter after Roy’s death, his mom Lynn Roy wrote: “I am angry with myself because I think maybe if I would have told him to stay away from his Dads family maybe things would have [been] different. … There is so much anxiety that I have because I believe some of his Dad & his family members have blood on their hands.”
Her statement led to the most damning evidence against Carter cited by the judge who convicted her: After assuring Lynn Roy that she was not to blame for her son’s suicide, Carter texted a friend, Sam Boardman, and shifted the blame to herself.
“His death was my fault,” Carter wrote to Boardman. “I could have stopped him. I was on the phone with him, and he got out of the car because it was working. He got scared and I … told him to get back in.”
Roy Told Carter They Were Brought Together by the Devil
Following a stay in a psychiatric hospital after a suicide attempt, Roy texted Carter: “I saw the devil already.”
“Me too and how did you,” she replied.
Roy: “He was at the hospital one night staring at me. And he told me to kill them all.”
Carter: “Are you serious …”
Roy: “Dead serious.”
Carter: “I’ve seen him too. I see him a lot actually.”
Roy: “Maybe we were meant to be together. The devil brought us.”
Carter: “Are we destined for Hell then?”
Carter: “But babe even if i do end up going to hell I’m happy it’s with you.”
The Pair’s Online Relationship Distorted Their Reality
Carter and Roy met perhaps no more than five times while exchanging thousands of texts over two years, causing their relationship to develop in distorted ways, says John Suler, author of The Psychology of Cyberspace, in the film.
“Are we basically dating?” she texted at one point. (At another, she’d asked him, did he think they’d marry?)
“How does that make sense?” Roy replied.
Carter: “I want to be able to say I was your girlfriend.”
Roy: “Yes you are.
Carter: “I am? : ).”
Roy: “I guess.”
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Says Suler: “When people are communicating through texts, strange things start to happen. You don’t necessarily experience the other person as another person. You can’t see them, you can’t hear them, you can’t see their body language. … You have this voice with you all day long that will suddenly pop up and say things to you. I think in some ways people experience that as a voice in their head, almost as if it’s like an internal hallucination.”
Carter Was Fixated on the TV Show Glee, Mimicking Teen Character’s Pain
A fascination with actress Lea Michele‘s teen character on the Fox TV series Glee appeared to veer on obsession for Carter, especially as the death of Michele’s TV boyfriend — following the overdose death of the actor who also was Michele’s real-life boyfriend — preceded Roy’s death.
Carter sent texts after Roy died to friends that closely duplicated the show’s scripted scenes and the actress’s actual interviews about her loss.
Lea Michele on the Ellen TV show, “I literally lived every day of my life feeling like the luckiest girl in the whole world. I just thought he was the greatest man.”
Carter wrote in a text: “He was the greatest man I ever knew and I literally lived every day feeling like the luckiest girl in the world.”
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “home” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.