How Michelle Carter urging her friend to kill himself led to a jail sentence for involuntary manslaughter

A summer string of text messages that a judge said led to one teenager's death has now led to another's jail sentence.

Judge Lawrence Moniz of Massachusetts on Thursday sentenced 20-year-old Michelle Carter to a 2-1/2-year jail sentence — only 15 months of which is to be actually spent behind bars — for repeatedly telling a young man, Conrad Roy III, to kill himself. Moniz found Carter guilty of involuntary manslaughter earlier in the year.

Carter and Roy had met in 2014 while the two were 17 and taking family vacations in Florida. In the months after, they started sharing stories of profound emotional instability through Facebook and text messages.

Here's how a relationship that ended with a young man's death and a young woman's jail sentence unfolded:

 

On June 16, Judge Lawrence Moniz found Michelle Carter guilty of involuntary manslaughter for sending texts that encouraged a young man she had called her boyfriend to kill himself.

 

In the summer of 2014, Conrad Roy III started sending Carter texts in which he shared thoughts about killing himself. Carter first listened to Roy and offered support, but she later started sending messages that said Roy's family would "get over it."

"Everyone will be sad for a while but they will get over it and move on," Carter texted when Roy expressed worries about what his death would do to his family.

One could "hang yourself, jump off a building, stab yourself idk there's a lot of ways," Carter once texted Roy.

On July 12, 2014, Roy drove to a supermarket parking lot and prepared to fill the cab of his truck with carbon monoxide. Roy exited the vehicle before the gas took effect, but Carter told him to "get back in."

The police found Roy dead inside his truck the next day. In the weeks after Roy's death, Carter organized a fund-raising tournament in Roy's honor and started calling herself a suicide-prevention advocate trying to "save as many other lives as possible."

During the summer she was texting Roy, Carter struggled with body image and took medicine for depression and anxiety. "She was enmeshed in a delusional system," Peter Breggin, a psychiatrist, said in testimony for the defense reported on by The New York Times.

The police started investigating Roy's death, and Carter was charged with involuntary manslaughter in March 2015.

Prosecutors said Carter wanted to play the role of the "grieving girlfriend" and receive the public's sympathy. It is unclear whether the two were dating at the time of his death.

On June 16, a Massachusetts judge ruled that Carter's texts contributed to Roy's death and that she could face up to 20 years of prison time.

"Knowing that Mr. Roy is in the truck, knowing the condition of the truck, knowing or at least having a state of mind that 15 minutes would pass, Ms. Carter takes no action," Moniz told the court.

Moniz sentenced Carter on Thursday to 2 1/2 years in jail for her actions. That said, she will spend most of her time on probation and only 15 months behind bars.

 

"I have not found that Ms. Carter's age or level of maturity or even her mental illness have any significant impact on her actions," Moniz said.

The ruling surprised many legal experts who felt that Carter's physical distance from Roy at the time of his death would prompt a not-guilty ruling. This decision is widely expected to establish precedent in cases of people who have told others to kill themselves.