Pushing Up Lilies

Silenced by the Screen: The Tragic Story of Conrad Roy and Michelle Carter

Episode Summary

In this profoundly moving episode of Pushing Up Lilies, I take you through the heart-wrenching story of Conrad Roy and Michelle Carter. In this episode we explore the devastating consequences of their ill-fated relationship, which took a horrifying turn towards the unimaginable: a suicide that would make headlines around the world. Join me as I delve into the intricacies of their story, the texts, and the emotions that pushed them both to the edge. We'll unravel the legal complexities of Michelle Carter's involvement and her shocking conviction. Yet, the tragedy of Conrad's life and the profound impact of cyberbullying and social media on the vulnerable youth of today don't end with their story. This episode serves as a stark reminder of the consequences of our virtual lives and the very real emotions behind every screen. * Listener discretion is advised.

Episode Notes


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Episode Transcription

0:06 Welcome to Pushing Up Lilies.

0:08 I'm your host, Julie Matson.

0:10 Pushing Up Lilies is a weekly True Crime podcast with spine tingling, unusual and terrifyingly true stories from my perspective as a forensic death investigator and a sexual assault nurse examiner.

0:24 Do I have some stories for you?

0:26 Are you ready?

0:30 Can you believe it's October?

0:32 I can't believe how quickly this year has gone by.

0:37 I was talking to a friend this week.

0:40 She was telling me that her daughter is being bullied at school and I know growing up I went to a small school, 27 in my graduating class.

0:53 We really didn't have to deal with that.

0:55 I mean, there were people who didn't like other people and we just stayed away from each other.

1:01 They didn't like to bully one another.

1:04 At least I didn't see it.

1:05 Maybe it was going on and I was just completely unaware, which is possible, but I don't understand that whole concept.

1:13 Of course, we see it on television.

1:16 It's so sad.

1:17 I mean, it's sad that these kids don't have anything else to do but to give other kids a hard time and make fun of them.

1:25 And I just hate it.

1:25 I feel so sorry for him, and I want to go to school with them and just follow them around all day and protect them because it just breaks my heart to think that they're being bullied at school.

1:37 And then they have so much difficulty dealing with it, and it causes depression, anxiety and just so many issues that they're probably just unaware of at their age.

1:51 Who knows?

1:51 But it just, it reminded me of the case of Conrad Roy, and I don't know if y'all remember him or not, but he died by suicide at the age of 18.

2:02 And his girlfriend, Michelle Carter was a 17-year-old and she had encouraged him to kill himself via text.

2:11 And I remember this was in the news and it was on television, and it was a big story at the time.

2:17 There were many messages, emails and phone calls made between the two.

2:23 Immediately before his death, Roy had seen professionals.

2:27 He had been to counseling, and he was placed on, on psych meds.

2:33 However, Carter just repeatedly texted him suggesting that he kill himself.

2:39 Now, Conrad Roy was born on September 12th of 95 in Massachusetts and he worked in New England at his family's marine salvage business.

2:52 I believe he worked with his grandfather and his dad.

2:55 And in 2014, he completed night classes and earned his captain's license from the Northeast Maritime Institute.

3:05 That's impressive.

3:06 So this kid was headed the right direction.

3:10 He was an athlete, he played baseball, he was on the road team.

3:15 He ran track and graduated high school with a 3.88 GPA.

3:23 He wasn't messing around.

3:24 He had places to go.

3:26 Now, Michelle Carter, she was born August 11th of 96.

3:31 Michelle was taking Celexa for anxiety and depression, which a lot of people are not dogging.

3:40 That I always say that these days if you're not on something for anxiety or depression, you're not normal, but I mean, not really, but you know what I mean?

3:49 Life is hard.

3:51 The two met in Florida while they were visiting relatives and although they lived only 35 miles apart, they rarely saw one another.

4:02 They mostly communicated via text and email.

4:07 Roy had a history apparently of allegedly being physically abused by his dad and verbally abused by his grandfather in October of 2012.

4:24 He attempted suicide after his parents divorced.

4:29 Now, Carter discouraged him from committing suicide in both 2012 and 2014.

4:39 She was supportive at that time and advised him to seek help and get counseling for his issues.

4:48 But for some reason in July of 2014, she began thinking that it would be good to help him die.

4:57 Roy implied in a text that they should both kill themselves.

5:02 We see these suicide packs many times at our office, and I can remember it's a little bit of an unusual case, but it was an elderly couple.

5:12 They were in debt.

5:13 They had a very nice home.

5:15 They owed money to the IRS.

5:18 They thought that the easiest way out would be a suicide pact, basically.

5:24 Although it was a murder suicide, what they did was the wife wrote a note and signed it and she said, yes, I've agreed to allow my husband to kill me.

5:36 He's then going to kill himself.

5:39 We have agreed to this, and this is why they left these notes out.

5:44 And then they went into the garage, and they laid blankets down and then they covered everything in the garage with plastic, they laid down on the blankets and the husband shot her and then he laid down on the blanket next to her and shot himself.

6:02 I mean, it's very much the same thing because they had both agreed to that.

6:08 There was according to family, no history of abuse or anything like that.

6:13 No one felt like he forced her to write the letter or sign the letter.

6:19 I mean, it's really sad that they felt like that was the only way out.

6:22 But that was basically what they decided would be the best way to handle it.

6:28 Hard for family to deal with the loss of both parents and debt.

6:34 I did think that it was rather selfish, and I can't help but think that, but it was basically the same thing, and this was an elderly couple again can happen at any age.

6:48 But in this case, Roy struggled with anxiety and depression as well and he had been in the hospital for a Tylenol overdose at the age of 17.

7:00 Now he was also taking Celexa, as I said earlier.

7:05 So was Michelle Celexa has a warning on the box stating that it could increase suicidal behavior and patients under 24.

7:19 This is something else that just comes to mind.

7:22 And so I'm going to mention it, but we have also had cases.

7:27 This was not a suicide pact, but we have also had cases where teenagers are on Accutane or other medications that are known to cause increased suicidal behavior and increased suicidal ideations.

7:45 I've had teenagers who are taking Accutane for acne, good students, very active, played baseball, great friends, great grades just out of nowhere, shoot themselves.

8:05 There is a reason that the warnings are on the box.

8:12 There are risks.

8:14 I know that my daughter wanted to take Accutane at one time when she was in her twenties.

8:21 And even then, I just recommended against it because I knew I'd heard so many stories about it, increasing the risk, let's say of suicidal behavior.

8:31 I just really didn't want her to have to deal with that if it was a side effect and not to say that these are not great drugs.

8:40 I mean, Celexa works, Accutane works, but that warning is on the box for a reason and there are known cases of that happening.

8:51 And so that's just something to be aware of going forward, that to be sure and read those labels and talk carefully with your doctor about what the risks are.

9:03 Even as a parent, you know, if it's your child, what to look for, what you should be aware of.

9:09 Because I know in a lot of cases, of the scenes I went out on, the parents were completely unaware that it was a risk.

9:17 On June 12th of 2014, Roy died by suicide by poisoning himself with carbon monoxide fumes in his truck in a Kmart parking lot.

9:29 This was after he had received numerous text messages from Michelle Carter.

9:37 Carter was indicted on February the fourth of 2015 on involuntary manslaughter charges.

9:44 She was 17 at the time, she was indicted as a youthful offender for recklessly assisting in the suicide.

9:53 And as we know these things drag on, on June the fifth of 2017, Carter waived her right to a jury trial on the 16th of June.

10:04 Carter was found guilty.

10:06 This was by a judge in court again, she did not have a jury trial during the trial.

10:12 It was found that Roy had gotten out of his truck.

10:16 She urged him to get back in.

10:19 Roy's father believed that Carter knew what she was doing and didn't have a conscience that she knew that she could talk him into getting back into the truck.

10:31 And going through with-it pending sentencing.

10:34 Carter was free on bail.

10:36 She was sentenced to a 2.5-year term and five years’ probation in February of 2019, the Supreme Court ruled that Carter acted with criminal intent and she began serving her sentence.

10:51 About five days later, she was denied parole for early release in September of 2019.

11:00 She went before the parole board and was denied.

11:03 Carter's lawyers appealed, stating that Roy had a history of suicide attempts, that he would have eventually done this on his own without her coercion in January of 2020.

11:19 Carter was released three months early for good conduct.

11:23 She served 11 months and 12 days of her 15-month sentence in August of 2017.

11:31 Roy's father filed a wrongful death suit which was later dismissed.

11:36 Now, in the big picture, suicide of course, is a huge public health issue worldwide.

11:44 It can be influenced so much by social media and environmental factors and social media again; I believe has made it worse.

11:54 That's probably why it wasn't such a big issue.

11:56 When I was in high school.

11:58 We didn't have social media; we didn't text message each other.

12:01 Our phones were big brick block phones that had to be plugged into the cigarette lighters in our car.

12:07 We didn't have that.

12:09 People didn't go online and on Facebook and make fun of each other and make fun of their clothes and make fun of their makeup and their hair and all those things that you see.

12:20 Now we know that bullying on social media or not actually increases the risk of suicidal behavior.

12:31 And I've just heard the stories like I said on my friends who tell me that their Children or their grandchildren are being bullied and I don't think they care about it, but I don't think the kids who do it realize the long-term effects that it can have on the kids that they're doing this to cyber bullying.

12:52 They say increases suicidal thoughts by 14.5%.

12:58 It increases suicide attempts by 8.7%.

13:04 Whether you know the person or not, if you say something negative, it can still affect them.

13:12 Those under 25 who are victims of cyber bullying are two times more likely to hurt themselves.

13:21 On the flip side, social media can make you feel less lonely.

13:26 And I think that's why a lot of people post stuff on there, wanting to read the comments and wanting to know that someone is going to respond to what they posted.

13:37 That's the reason that a lot of people do it, we all know is just sometimes to get attention.

13:44 But they did a study and in 2013, they said there were 19 suicides that occurred due to harmful anonymous messages, messages or comments left on a Facebook or an Instagram post by somebody that they didn't know it's also found that those who post suicide notes online tend to not be the ones who will reach out and go get counseling and go try to get help and may not have a large group of friends who are supportive.

14:19 We talked earlier about the suicide pact and that's basically an agreement between two or more people to die by suicide the same way.

14:27 At the same time, I did find that there is some intervention built into Instagram and Facebook and Twitter and some of those online programs, suicide intervention on social media has saved many lives.

14:46 Facebook detects words and phrases that are commonly associated with suicide and is intervened in over 3500 cases.

14:56 If you use certain words and phrases that they have bookmarked, then an alert is sent to their safety center.

15:07 Looking back.

15:07 I thought this is really interesting because you know, what would you do if one of your friends posted what appeared to be a suicide note on Facebook or Instagram, Demi Moore and her followers once intervened to stop a suicide that had been announced on Twitter, which I think that's pretty cool.

15:27 I mean to actually take the time to help somebody that you don't know.

15:32 I mean this is one of her followers to help them and they stopped it. 

15:33 Pete Davidson from Saturday Night live posted, I don't want to be on this earth anymore on Instagram. Some friends, fans and followers panicked, but then there were those that joked about it that's going to happen because a lot of people probably didn't take it seriously.

15:56 Thought he was kidding.

15:57 He's a comedian.

15:59 But some sensed that something was wrong and offered love and hope.

16:05 It's hard to know what to do when a Facebook Instagram or Twitter friend threatens suicide on social media.

16:14 And we all know that with the holidays coming up, it is a time when depression and sadness and loneliness sometimes takes hold of people.

16:26 We're coming up on the holiday season and we may see this, I just, I guess want to raise awareness that some people maybe are joking, or some people will make a comment and not really mean it literally.

16:40 But if it's someone that, you know, and you know, they've been dealing with something, maybe they've had a previous attempt, it's definitely meant to be taken seriously.

16:51 It's important to acknowledge if you see this, you know, that you hear their pain, it's really a request for someone to pay attention to them online.

17:02 You can't really detect someone's tone or state of mind when they make these comments.

17:07 If they said it to you in person, it would be like, oh man, you know, let's get you some help, but you can't really tell, you know, are they joking or is it related to just something going on to their life?

17:19 And they're like, I just wish this was over or you don't know what kind of tone they're using, social media does amplify everything they say.

17:31 If you see a message like this and you are concerned about it to make a personal call or email them to help them get help, teasing or joking about it or making a comment like, oh, I think you should do it or something like that can come across as mean and hurtful and only make things worse.

17:55 Definitely encourage them to contact a suicide hotline.

17:59 The increase in suicide rates parallels to the increase in social media use and the use of smartphones has increased.

18:08 We all know these kids are getting them at younger ages.

18:10 Kids are being exposed to social media at younger ages.

18:15 They're smart, they know how to use phones better than I do.

18:19 Again, we didn't really have as much of this issue.

18:23 I'm sure it existed.

18:24 I was just again unaware of it, but the suicide rates have gone up as social media has come into play.

18:33 I love social media.

18:34 I use it to advertise.

18:36 I love to put funny stuff on there.

18:39 I put stuff on there all the time, but that wasn't around when I was a teenager.

18:44 Again, the suicide rates have increased because of that.

18:49 About I guess between they say 10 to 40% of adolescents experience cyber bullying.

18:56 I know there's a lot of movies about it but bullying through the internet increases the risk of suicidal ideations and advertising, they expose kids to substance abuse, alcohol, tobacco, marijuana use, which can lead to potential self-harm and suicide.

19:19 Adolescents on social media are at risk of being victims of sex crimes as well.

19:25 Just something to think about adults should pay attention to their teens behavior and take cyber bullying or any kind of bullying whether it happens in person or online.

19:37 Very, very, very seriously.

19:39 I just encourage you to listen to your child, encourage them to remain active in their favorite activities if there are suicide attempts or suicidal ideations or if they're being bullied and they've ever made a statement about not wanting to live anymore, remove those potential weapons that they could use to hurt themselves from the home, find a therapist for them to see somebody that they're comfortable talking to so that they can talk about their feelings.

20:12 It's not abnormal.

20:13 I'm not a therapist, but I'm just saying it is not abnormal for kids not to want to talk to their parents.

20:20 If you can find a therapist or somebody that they can talk to, they don't have to worry about a parent judging them or anything like that.

20:28 It just gives them kind of a safe place and someone to talk to and of course, in an emergency, always call 911, 46,000 people died by suicide in 2020 in the United States.

20:44 Just remember that Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, all of those allow you to report suicidal content.

20:52 Facebook specifically allows you to copy and download the URL to them so that their safety department can reach out to the person.

21:04 I know that many times they can send the police for a welfare check and those types of things.

21:11 Also the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, if you call 988, they have crisis workers available 24 hours a day and you can call and text again.

21:25 I just because my friend mentioned to me that her friend was being bullied, it just hurts my heart.

21:30 I hate to think that people are going through this and having these feelings and don't have anyone to talk to.

21:38 Counseling is important, and this suicide prevention lifeline is an amazing way for people to be able to reach out again.

21:48 You can just talk or text 988 and talk to a crisis worker 24 hours a day.

21:53 I hope y'all have a great week.

21:55 I know it is cooling off big time here in Texas.

21:58 It was, I think 54 degrees yesterday morning.

22:03 I think it's colder than that here right now.

22:05 It's 42 and we're only supposed to have a high of 75 today, which sounds amazing to me.

22:13 I love sweatshirt weather.

22:15 You will often see me in a sweatshirt and flip flops.

22:19, I can't wear flip flops to work, but I love sweatshirt weather anyway.

22:24 I hope you all have an amazing week and I look forward to talking to you next week.

22:31 Thank you so much for joining me today on Pushing Up Lilies.

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22:42 This helps to make the podcast more visible to the public.

22:45 Thanks again for spending your time with me and be sure to visit me at PushingUpLilies.com for merchandise and past episodes.