TAUNTON, Mass. (AP) — A teenager charged with using text messages to encourage her boyfriend to kill himself played a ‘‘sick game’’ with another person’s life, a prosecutor said Tuesday.
In dozens of text messages and telephone calls, Michelle Carter, then 17, repeatedly urged Conrad Roy III, 18, to kill himself, prosecutor Maryclare Flynn said in opening statements at Carter’s manslaughter trial.
Roy was sitting in his pickup in the parking lot of a store in July 2014 as the truck filled with carbon monoxide. After he exited the truck, Carter told him to ‘‘get back in,’’ Flynn said at the trial in juvenile court in Taunton.
Carter, who never called authorities or Roy’s parents as he died, wanted the sympathy and attention that came with being the ‘‘grieving girlfriend,’’ Flynn said.
Defense attorney, Joseph Cataldo, however, painted a starkly contrasting picture of Carter, who’s now 20.
Roy was depressed after his parents’ divorce, was physically and verbally abused by family members and had long thought of suicide, even researching suicide methods online, he said.
It was Carter who urged him to get help, Cataldo said.
The couple met in Florida in 2012 but had only seen each other in person a handful of times even though they lived just 35 miles apart in Massachusetts — Roy in Mattapoisett and Carter in Plainville. They communicated mostly through text messages and phone calls.
When Roy suggested they should be like Romeo and Juliet, the lovers who killed themselves in the Shakespeare play, Carter said she didn’t want them to die, Cataldo said.
‘‘Conrad Roy was on this path to take his own life for years,’’ he said. ‘‘It was Conrad Roy’s idea to take his own life. It was not Michelle Carter’s idea. This was a suicide, a sad and tragic suicide, but not a homicide.’’
Carter had her own mental health struggles and was taking medications that may have clouded her judgment, he said.
The first witness on the stand was Roy’s mother, Lynn Roy.
She testified that she took a walk on the beach with her son hours before he was found dead and he showed no signs he intended to harm himself. She called police later when she noticed her son’s truck missing.
She also testified that after her son’s death, she received text messages from Carter expressing sympathy but not mentioning any prior knowledge about suicide plans.
Under cross-examination she acknowledged there was tension between her son and his father.
Camdyn Roy, Conrad Roy’s 16-year-old sister, who was 13 at the time of his death, told a similar story on the stand. Her brother did not seem sad at the beach, she testified. She also received text messages from Carter offering support after her brother’s death but no indication they had been in contact.
The case is being tried without a jury in juvenile court because Carter was a juvenile when Roy killed himself. Court proceedings are open because she was charged as a juvenile offender, which makes her subject to adult punishment if convicted.