Judge stays prison sentence for woman who encouraged boyfriend to kill himself in texts

TAUNTON, Mass. — A Massachusetts state judge Thursday stayed Michelle Carter’s 15-month prison sentence pending appeal of her involuntary manslaughter conviction in the 2014 suicide of her boyfriend, Conrad Roy III. She was sentenced to a two-and-a-half-year term, with 15 months in prison and the balance suspended plus a period of supervised probation.

In June, Carter, now 20-years-old was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the suicide death of Conrad Roy III. It was Carter’s own words in text messages that helped seal her conviction. Hundreds of her text messages were presented as evidence over six days of testimony in June convinced a Massachusetts judge of her guilt .

On Thursday, Bristol Assistant District Attorney Maryclare Flynn asked Bristol County Juvenile Court Judge Lawrence Moniz to sentence Carter to not less than seven nor more than 12 years in prison.  The prosecutor said she manipulated and deceived Roy’s family, telling them she tried her hardest to save Roy, when instead ‘she was the cause of Conrad’s homicide.’

Conrad Roy III, 18, poisoned himself by inhaling carbon monoxide in his pickup truck. His body was found July 13, 2014, a day after his suicide in his parked truck in a Kmart parking lot in Fairhaven, nearly 40 miles from his home.

The defense asked the judge for a probation sentence.

“They say things like ‘she made a mistake’. She used poor judgment. They don’t seem to understand it was her plan. She was the one on the other end goading him,” Flynn said of Carter’s family. The prosecutor argued that Carter’s family is not a good support system.

“For all of these reasons, the Commonwealth respectfully asks the court to enforce our recommendation,” the prosecutor argued.

The defense attorney argued that Carter had her own mental health issues.

“This is out of character for Michelle Carter. This is not who Michelle Carter was. She was struggling at the time,” her attorney argued.

In his explanation, the judge reminded parties that the case was in a juvenile court and the court had a responsibility to balance rehabilitation and punishment for the juvenile.

The judge also ordered that Carter could not profit from the death of Roy.

Judge Moniz heard the case after Carter waived her right to a jury trial. She was tried in juvenile court because she was 17 at the time of the crime. Judge Moniz could have sentenced Carter to up to 20 years in prison.

“She instructs Mr. Roy to get back into the truck well-knowing of all of the feelings that he has exchanged with her; his ambiguities, his fears, his concerns. This court finds that in instructing Mr. Roy to get back into the truck constituted… wanton and reckless conduct by Miss Carter creating a situation where there is a high degree of likelihood that substantial harm would result to Mr. Roy,” Judge Lawrence Moniz said when he announced her guilty verdict.

“She did not notify his mother or his sister even though just several days before that she had requested their phone numbers from Mr. Roy… She called no one. And finally, she did not issue a simple additional instruction, ‘Get out of the truck.’ Consequently, this court has found that the Commmonwealth has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Miss Carter’s actions and also her failure to act where she had a self created duty to Mr. Roy since she had put him into that toxic environment constituted each and all wanton and reckless conduct,” the judge continued.

The prosecution asked the judge to revoke bail, but the judge ruled that she could remain free on bail until her sentencing.

Conrad Roy and Michelle Carter

Carter went from offering “words of kindness and love” to aggressively encouraging Roy via text message to carry out longtime threats to commit suicide, Bristol Assistant District Attorney Katie Rayburn told the court.

“It got to the point that he was apologizing to her, … apologizing to her for not being dead yet,” Rayburn said in her closing argument.

Rayburn reminded the judge of text messages in which Carter encouraged Roy to get back in the truck, where he eventually died of carbon monoxide poisoning. In text messages to a friend, she described hearing his finals words and breaths on the phone.

The case — which could prompt the drawing up of new laws to deal with the behavior highlighted in the trial — has been closely watched by legal analysts.