"It's now or never": Teen girl facing manslaughter charge after egging boyfriend on to kill himself

We’ve done nearly 120,000 Headline items at HA over the past eight years and have digested many more news stories and op-eds than that in the process of culling interesting bits to highlight for you guys. Amid all that noise, this stands out as one of the most depraved things I’ve read. It made me physically queasy.

I’m reluctant to excerpt it since you need to read it in full to appreciate the lengths to which she went to make sure her squeeze went through with his suicide. Her lawyer argues that she was “brainwashed” by a Romeo-and-Juliet fantasy of romantic suicide but the tone of their texts wasn’t weepy, farewell-my-love lyricism. She was impatient with him. She badgers him at times in their messages to get on with it already. At one point she mocks him by accusing him of deliberately botching his carbon-monoxide mechanism so that he can pretend to go through with it and then say afterward that it didn’t work. She ended up giving him instructions on how to build a device that would get the job done.

Who are we dealing with here, exactly?

“I bet you’re gonna be like ‘oh, it didn’t work because I didn’t tape the tube right or something like that,’” she texted him “You always seem to have an excuse.”

When Roy decided to use a generator instead, Carter was impatient.

“Do you have the generator?” she asked him.

“Not yet LOL,” he replied.

“WELL WHEN ARE YOU GETTING IT?” she wrote.

Eventually, Roy did find a generator — his father’s — but it was broken. Carter told him to take it to Sears for repairs.

They were on the phone the night he died. Quote:

“Like, honestly I could have stopped it,” Carter texted Samantha months later. “I was on the phone with him and he got out of the car” because the carbon monoxide was working, she said. She added that she “told him to get back in.”

He did get back in and passed away in the cab of his pick-up truck. Months later, Carter was chatting with Roy’s mother when she found out that cops had taken his cell phone and would be reading through his messages. “[If the police] read my messages with him I’m done,” Carter told a friend. “His family will hate me and I can go to jail.” Up to that point, though, she seemed to be enjoying the sympathy she was getting as the girl whose online boyfriend (they’d apparently met only a few times) had tragically killed himself at such a tender age. Here’s a bit from HuffPo’s coverage of the story that didn’t make it into the WaPo story linked above:

The district attorney’s office argues that in the immediate days after Roy’s death, Carter “sought sympathy and attention” when she created a Facebook event to hold a baseball tournament fundraiser in Roy’s honor.

“I want to put myself out there to try to save as many other lives as possible,” the event description read. When a friend of Roy’s mentioned the event on his Facebook page, Carter allegedly contacted him and asked: “You’re not taking credit for my idea though, right?”

She’ll make a great mom someday. The question now for the local D.A. in Massachusetts is whether she’s committed a crime. They’ve charged her with involuntary manslaughter, which involves wanton or reckless conduct leading to someone’s unintended death — a weird count given how clear her intentions were but understandable given the precariousness of the state’s position. They might not be able to convict her of anything, after all; she’s claiming that her messages with Roy were speech protected by the First Amendment and that the charges should be thrown out. She didn’t take any overt acts to facilitate the killing, as would be needed for a charge of solicitation of murder. All she did was talk to him. Ultimately it was his decision to do it or not.

Presumably, to make the manslaughter charge stick, the D.A. will need to first prove that Carter engaged in “conduct” above and beyond her chats with Roy that increased the risk of him killing himself. Failing that, though, why not charge her with disorderly conduct or some Massachusetts version of incitement? Remember, the First Amendment standard for unprotected speech is speech that’s intended to cause, and is likely to cause, imminent lawless action. Carter egging Roy on to sit in his truck while it filled with carbon monoxide meets all of the parts of that test except, possibly, the “lawless” part. Suicide’s not illegal in Massachusetts, as far as I know, but I assume the D.A. could frame it not as “suicide” but rather as Roy attempting the murder of himself. Disorderly conduct would be a slap on the wrist given the gravity of what she’s done, but it’d give her a criminal record at least. That might be useful in the future if/when she commits another crime and the court needs to figure out the severity of the sentence.

Whatever the outcome, in a just world she’d be shunned by polite society forever.