The Massachusetts teen convicted of involuntary manslaughter after urging her 18-year-old boyfriend to kill himself “should be kept away from society,” says the victim’s aunt, reports the Boston Herald.
Michelle Carter will be sentenced Thursday and faces a possible 20 years in prison for her role in the 2014 death of Conrad Roy III. Carter was 17 when she encouraged Roy to commit suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning through a series of texts and phone calls in the final hours of his life.
Carter’s father has requested probation and “continued counseling” for his daughter, now 20, according to a letter he sent last month to Massachusetts Juvenile Court Judge Lawrence Moniz,
“She will forever live with what she has done and I know will be a better person because of it,” David Carter wrote. “I ask you to invoke leniency in your decision-making process for my loving child Michelle.”
Roy’s aunt, Kim Bozzi, plans to testify and counter with a statement arguing that Carter deserves the maximum punishment.
“I believe she should be kept away from society,” Bozzi wrote in a statement that she plans to share in court, the Herald reports. “Take away the spotlight she so desperately craves. Twenty years may seem extreme but it is still 20 more than Conrad will ever have.”
The judge will weigh those competing requests when Carter enters the courtroom for a 2 p.m. sentencing.
In a bench trial, Moniz found Carter guilty in June after six days of testimony in which prosecutors alleged that Carter sought the attention that came with being a grieving girlfriend.
She and Roy had met while on separate vacations to Florida. Carter was the granddaughter of a Roy family friend, and although they lived in two different Massachusetts towns one hour apart, the two had a relationship primarily through social media.
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Roy’s family and friends knew he struggled with anxiety and depression, and that he previously had tried to kill himself. After his body was discovered, prosecutors revealed hundreds of texts exchanged between Roy and Carter that revealed her apparent support and encouragement of his decision to follow through with it.
Roy ultimately killed himself in his pickup truck by attaching a hose from a portable generator and filled the cab with poisonous carbon monoxide.
In one example, from the days before his death, she texted him, “You’re ready and prepared. All you have to do is turn the generator on and you be free and happy. No more pushing it, no more waiting.”
A Controversial Case
The question of whether words alone were enough to convict one person for causing the death of another had legal scholars paying close attention to the case.
Carter’s defense attorney, Joseph Cataldo, argued that Carter’s texts amounted to protected free speech. The texts, he said, “did not contain anything remotely resembling a threat,” according to a court filing previously obtained by PEOPLE.
Among Carter’s many messages with Roy, she told him to seek “professional help,” according to Cataldo.
“This is a tragedy,” he said, “but it is not a crime.”
Yet in his ruling, the judge zeroed in on Roy’s last moments, when he expressed his fears to Carter while his pickup filled with carbon monoxide.
“She Mr. Roy to get back into the truck, well-knowing of all of the feelings that he exchanged with her: his ambiguities, his fears, his concerns,” said Judge Moniz.
“She did nothing. She did not call the police or Mr. Roy’s family,” Moniz said of Carter. “Finally, she did not issue a simple additional instruction : ‘Get out of the truck.’ ”
After Roy’s body was discovered, Carter texted a friend to confess her role.
“I could have stopped it,” she wrote. “I was on the phone with him and he got out of the car because it was working and he got scared and I told him to get back in.”
During Carter’s trial, a psychiatrist testified that antidepressants prescribed to her before Roy died may have impeded her ability to empathize with others and make sound decisions. In his ruling, the judge said he did not find that credible.
Carter’s family defended her prior to the trial, saying in a statement after she was charged, “Our hearts have and remain broken for the Roy family. For everyone that does not know our daughter, she is not the villain the media is portraying her to be.”
“She is a quiet, kind and sympathetic young girl,” her family said. “She tried immensely to help Mr. Roy in his battle with depression.”
Suicide Prevention: What to Know
Experts say some common warning signs of suicide include discussing a desire to die or feeling anxious or hopeless, like a burden, or trapped or in pain; withdrawing from others; extreme mood swings, including anger and recklessness; and abnormal sleep patterns (sleeping too much or too little).
Many suicides have multiple causes and are not triggered by one event, according to experts, who underline that suicidal crises can be overcome with help. Where mental illness is a factor, it can be treated.
Reaching out to those in need is a simple and effective preventative measure, experts say.
If you or someone you know is showing warning signs of suicide, consider contacting the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK, texting the Crisis Text Line at 741741 or seeking help from a professional.