TAUNTON, Mass. (WPRI) — The mother of Conrad Roy says her son spent his last day alive enjoying chips and guacamole and some clam cakes on the beach with his family.
There were no signs he was going to kill himself hours later, she said.
Lynn Roy was the first witness to testify at the involuntary manslaughter trial of Michelle Carter, 20, who is accused of causing Roy’s death by convincing him to kill himself in July 2014.
Roy died of carbon monoxide poisoning after hooking up a generator to his pickup truck in a parking lot in Fairhaven. Roy and Carter had met in Florida on vacation in 2012 and the teens engaged in a romantic relationship online. Roy, 18, lived in Mattapoisett while Carter lives in Plainville. She was 17 at the time of Roy’s death.
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Opening statements in the bench trial began Tuesday morning in Bristol County Juvenile Court in front of Judge Lawrence Moniz. Carter waived her right to a jury trial Monday, shortly before jury selection was set to get underway.
In openings, prosecutors argued Michelle Carter craved sympathy and attention from other girls at school, seeking to be the “grieving girlfriend” who wasn’t able to stop her boyfriend from killing himself.
“The defendant needed something to get their attention,” Bristol County Assistant District Attorney Maryclare Flynn said. “She used Conrad as a pawn in her sick game of life and death.”
Flynn presented text messages in court of the conversations Carter and Roy had about his suicide.
“All you need to do is turn on the generator and you will be free and happy,” one of the texts from Carter read.
At one point, Carter responded to a text from Roy asking about her day by asking, “when are you doing it?” When Roy changed the subject, Carter wrote: “When are you gonna do it? Stop ignoring the question.”
Flynn said Carter and Roy spoke on the phone for 47 minutes while he was weighing whether to go through with the suicide in the truck.
“Conrad got out of his truck as he was being poisoned, and he got scared,” Flynn said. “The defendant [expletive] told him to get back in.”
After Roy’s death, Flynn said Carter feigned ignorance of the location and manner of his suicide.
“She never admitted to anyone in the Roy family that she had helped Conrad for weeks to devise a suicide plan, or that she was on the phone with Conrad and knew he committed suicide in the Kmart parking lot,” Flynn said.
Carter’s defense attorney Joseph Cataldo disputed the prosecution’s claims, calling Roy’s death a “sad and tragic suicide,” but not a homicide.
Cataldo pointed out that Roy had been suicidal for years, even attempting to kill himself by overdosing on Tylenol in 2012. Cataldo presented texted messages from 2012 and 2013 that showed Carter trying to stop Roy from attempting suicide, and even telling him he should seek in-patient help.
“WE ARE NOT DYING,” Carter wrote in all capital letters in one text message, after Roy suggested the two could have a “Romeo and Juliet” ending.
Cataldo said Carter suffered a “break” at some point that caused her to agree with Roy’s narrative that he should kill himself.
The defense plans to present testimony from Dr. Peter Breggin, a psychiatrist, who will argue that Carter was “involuntarily intoxicated” by antidepressants she should not have been prescribed because of her age.
Ms. Roy, Conrad’s mother, testified that her son bounced back from his 2012 suicide attempt, recently graduating from high school before his death.
“I knew he was depressed, but I thought he was doing great,” Roy said. She said she did not know at the time that Carter was his girlfriend.
Roy’s best friend, Thomas Gammell, also testified that he didn’t know about Carter until after Roy’s death, when she invited him to a benefit baseball tournament for Conrad. She was planning to hold it in her hometown of Plainville.
“I was curious about why the tournament was being held in Plainville and not Mattapoisett,” Gammell said. “Because all of Conrad’s family and friends are from Mattapoisett.”
When Gammell pushed the issue, he said Carter “wanted to make it clear that she was getting credit for all this.”
Fairhaven Police Officer David Correia also testified Tuesday, recalling the moments when he discovered Roy’s body in his truck after his mother reported him missing. Photos were shown of Roy slumped over in the driver’s seat, eliciting tears from family members sitting behind the prosecution.