DARTMOUTH (CBS/AP) – Michelle Carter, the young Plainville woman who sent her boyfriend text messages urging him to kill himself before he committed suicide, was released from jail Thursday morning.
With a crowd of media watching her, Carter, 23, left the Bristol County House of Corrections in Dartmouth with three bags and was picked up by her parents. They did not speak to reporters. Carter was set free more than three months early, serving nearly a year of a 15-month sentence that she began in February 2019.
She was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the 2014 death of her boyfriend, Conrad Roy III. A judge determined that Carter, who was 17 at the time, caused the death of the 18-year-old Roy when she ordered him in a phone call to get back in his carbon monoxide-filled truck that he’d parked in a Kmart parking lot in Fairhaven.
Lawyers for Carter filed an appeal to the Supreme Court in July. The filing argued that her conviction, based on her “words alone,” violated her First Amendment right to free speech. The court rejected her appeal on January 13.
“The US Supreme Court decision not to hear the appeal and her release today brings closure,” Roy’s family said in a statement released hours after Carter was set free. “It’s been a painfully long 6 years and we are ready to move on. While we are disappointed that she was not required to serve her full sentence it doesn’t change that Conrad is forever gone. We will continue to remember him and honor him. We will also continue raise awareness for suicide prevention in the hopes that no other family has to face this kind of pain.”
“It won’t bring our grandson back,” Roy’s grandmother Janice Roy told WBZ-TV. “To us, where a life was lost and a loved one was lost, I would like to have seen at least what the judge sentenced her to.”
The case drew national attention and sparked legislative proposals in Massachusetts to criminalize suicide coercion.
The Bristol County Sheriff’s Office said Carter had accrued enough “good time” credits for good behavior and attending programs while incarcerated after she was denied parole last September.
Sheriff Tomas Hodgson told reporters Thursday that Carter was a “model inmate,” meaning she had no discipline issues in her time at the jail.
“I think by keeping busy the way she did she was able to integrate very, very well in the women’s center and earn the “good time” (credits) she was allowed to get,” Hodgson said.
He also had a message for Roy’s family.
“In the end I suppose my answer would be we don’t dictate what the sentences are going to be and the punishment,” he said. “We can’t undo what’s already done but we can do everything we can while people are in our custody to try to ensure it never happens to anyone else. My entire staff certainly feel for the Roy family.”
Roy’s mother is currently advocating for a law that would make it a crime to encourage someone to commit suicide.
She released a statement Thursday: “It is now time to focus on the positives in my life. I will continue to honor my son every day, keeping his memory and spirit in my memory, and to find ways to help others who may be experiencing what I have experienced.”
Carter’s first stop after leaving jail was to the probation court in Taunton. Now that she’s served her sentence, she is on probation for another two-and-a-half years. She left the jail in the same clothes in which she entered.
“I am very pleased she is home,” Carter’s attorney Joseph Cataldo told WBZ-TV. “Future legal plans will be announced in due course.”
Carter will not be able to do a book or movie deal based on her story anytime soon. She is prohibited from profiting from her story while she is on probation.
If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, there are resources and services dedicated to helping you:
Call or text the Samaritans statewide hotline at 877-870-HOPE
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK
Military veterans and loved ones, press 1 for the Veterans Crisis Line
The Trevor lifeline is available to help lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth and young adults at 1-866-488-7386
Additional resources can be found through Massachusetts Coalition for Suicide Prevention
There is help available to any parent struggling with the emotional hardships of raising a family though the parent stress line 1-800-632-8188
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)