Saturday, February 28, 2015

Massachusetts: High School Student Charged with Manslaughter for Encouraging Suicide

BY JIM HAND SUN CHRONICLE STAFF | Posted: Friday, February 27, 2015 1:00 am
PLAINVILLE  A King Philip Regional High School senior has been indicted for involuntary manslaughter, allegedly for urging a friend to commit suicide. She then raised money for mental illness in the name of her friend.
Michelle Carter, 18, of Plainville was indicted as a “youthful offender” by a Bristol County grand jury, and was arraigned in New Bedford Juvenile Court.
She is accused of urging Conrad Roy III, 18, of Fairhaven and Mattapoisett to kill himself, which he did while idling a truck last July in the parking lot of a Fairhaven Kmart. Authorities said he died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Police found Roy after his family reported him missing.
Police went through Roy’s cellphone and allegedly found a number of text messages from Carter, right up until the time he died, when she allegedly urged Roy to go through with the suicide, according to court documents.
Fairhaven police Detective Scott Gordon said in a police report: “Not only did Conrad tell Carter in several of his texts prior to his death that he was scared and didn’t want to leave his family, she continued to encourage him to take his own life, and when he actually started to carry out the act, he got scared again and exited his truck, but instead of telling him to stay out of the truck ... Carter told him to ‘get back in.’”
The apparent suicide happened last July, but Carter was just indicted Feb. 5 and arraigned the following day.
The case had not been previously publicized, and most news organizations don’t regularly cover juvenile court.
Gregg Miliote, a spokesman for Bristol County District Attorney Quinn, issued a written statement Thursday outlining the basics of the case.
“Based on the totality of the investigation, it is alleged that Ms. Carter had first-hand knowledge of Roy’s suicidal thoughts,” he said.
“Instead of attempting to assist him or notify his family or school officials, Ms. Carter is alleged to have strongly influenced his decision to take his own life, encouraged him to commit suicide and guided him in his engagement of activities which led to his death.”
He confirmed that Carter called and sent text messages to the victim encouraging him to go through with the suicide.
Miliote also said Quinn, the district attorney, has recused himself from involvement in the case because he has a “familial relationship” to the victim.
Calls and emails to the Carter family went unanswered Thursday night and no one answered the door at their Plainville home.
Carter’s attorney, Joseph P. Cataldo of Franklin, told The Standard-Times of New Bedford Thursday night that she did not commit a crime and that the manslaughter charge probably will be dismissed.
“This is terrible tragedy, a young man taking his own life,” he told the Standard-Times.
He accused the district attorney’s office of “trying to pin the blame on someone.”
“I can’t understand why they brought the charge,” Cataldo said. “They’re trying to claim there is manslaughter, when they freely admit the boy took his own life. You can’t have it both ways.”
On Carter’s Facebook page and on the Plainville Athletic League website, postings say she organized a softball tournament last September to raise money for mental health awareness in honor of her friend, Roy.
A press release advertising the fundraiser appeared in The Sun Chronicle.
The event was called “Homers for Conrad,” and Carter wrote: “life can be tough, but helping others makes it easier.”
She also posted several messages on Facebook saying how much she loved her friend and missed him.
The Facebook page that was set up for the fundraising event has been taken down and is no longer an active page.
However, Carter posted on her Twitter page about the outcome of the fundraiser.
“Thank you so much to everyone who came out to support Homers for Conrad! I’m so happy to say that with your help, we raised over $2,300!” Carter posted the message on her Twitter page Sept. 13 under the account @michyc47.
She wrote about suicide prevention often on her social media accounts.
On Sept. 10, 2014, she posted on her Twitter page: “National Suicide Awareness day, I wish more people understood. I love you and miss you everyday Conrad. Help others #WeCanEndSuicide.” She retweeted the link to a suicide prevention hotline on Sept. 21, 2014.
Carter was also a founding member of an organization called Connect-To-Cure, a fundraiser that sells $10 bracelets to raise money for cancer patients at Boston Children’s Hospital.
She stopped by the hospital to participate in a charity event, according to an article published in The Plainville Times, three weeks after she was arraigned on the manslauughter charge.
Carter was an honor roll student at King Philip Regional High School.
The court set bail for Carter at $2,500 and ordered she have no access to the Internet, other than for school work. She must stay off social media and is not allowed to send text messages, other than to her parents.
The youthful offender designation she was indicted under means she will be tried in juvenile court, but her trial will be open to the public, unlike typical juvenile cases. Carter was 17 at the time of her friend’s death.
Meanwhile, the grandmother of the victim, Janice Roy, said Thursday night she did not want to say too much about the case because it is making the family relive the heartache of Conrad’s death.
She did say Conrad was a good kid who had earned his boat captain’s license in only three weeks as he went to work for the family’s marine salvage business.
King Philip High School officials today declined to comment on Carter and her indictment for involuntary manslaughter.
“The circumstances surrounding this tragic loss are under investigation. Our deepest sympathy is extended to the family and school community of Conrad Roy,” Superintendent Elizabeth Zielinski said.
“As an educational institution we are bound by regulations related to the privacy of student records. As such I will not comment on the situation, or discuss anything that is related to any student’s record.” 
The victim had graduated from Old Rochester Regional High School and was planning to attend Fitchburg State University.
His father and paternal grandfather share his name and his love of the ocean.
Conrad Roy Jr., the father, was working a tug boat Feb. 19, 2009, when US Airways Flight 1549 went down in the Hudson River. Roy Jr.’s tug was among the first to come to the rescue.