By John Hanlon
The tragic 2014 death of Conrad Henri Roy III became a national story after it was determined that his suicide wasn’t as clear-cut as it originally seemed. The young man took his own life in a Home Depot parking lot but his death was complicated by the factors surrounding it. That’s because his girlfriend Michelle Carter encouraged Roy to kill himself.
The new HBO documentary I Love You, Now Die: The Commonwealth v. Michelle Carter — which recently aired in two parts — explores the complicated case.
After Roy’s body was discovered, police uncovered countless texts between Roy and Carter. The relationship between the couple — teenagers who had met up on fewer than five occasions, according to the documentary — mainly occurred over their phones. The duo chatted over those phones and exchanged thousands of text messages: messages that painted a terrifying portrait of their relationship.
Some of these texts included messages from Roy about his suicidal thoughts and others showed that Carter not only understood his state of mind. She encouraged him to take drastic action, urging him to take his own life (and offering ideas on how he could do it). Those texts were so reckless and damaging that Carter was charged with and ultimately convicted of manslaughter.
The first part of the two-part HBO series explores the case itself, revealing the depths of Carter’s manipulations. Her text messages paint a damning picture. She didn’t seem to care about his well-being and persisted in asking about his suicidal plans. After he died, she neglected to reveal her role in his suicide while publicly grieving her loss. Other events — including a softball game held in Roy’s honor, which was held in Carter’s hometown, not Roy’s — seemingly show how calculating Carter was.
The second episode — which focuses more on Michelle Carter’s defense — offers a more nuanced and complicated look at the woman who urged Roy to take his own life. It’s easy to dislike Carter because of the hateful and harmful texts she willingly sent to Roy. However, this episode focuses on her own pain (she — like Roy — was on antidepressants for a long time) and her own personal issues.
The episode notes, for instance, how Carter’s obsessions helped shape her behavior. For instance, she became obsessed with Glee actress Lea Michele and her texts to Roy took on a darker tone after Michele’s real-life boyfriend Cory Monteith died of a drug overdose. In fact, several of Carter’s text messages contained messages that were taken from Glee episodes that memorialized the death of Monteith’s onscreen character. Other messages from Carter contained language that Lea Michele used in interviews about losing her long-time love.
These messages suggest that Carter’s interest in Lea Michele became an unhealthy infatuation: one that led her to start making dramatic decisions.
Going into the program, it’s easy to have pre-conceived notions about Michelle Carter and her troubled relationship with Roy.
However, the program unshakably paints a portrait of two tortured souls. Carter’s family didn’t participate in the program but officials involved in her side of the court case — Carter’s lawyer and one of the doctors who testified for the defense, for instance — do appear and offer their thoughts and perspectives on Carter’s troubled mindset.
The story of Roy’s tragic death is a painful one to fully comprehend. To its credit, I Love You, Now Die: The Commonwealth v. Michelle Carter explores the complex different layers of this case and the legal battle that ensued after Roy’s death. Did Carter’s emotional manipulations cause Roy to kill himself? Does free speech cover such reckless and dangerous rhetoric? Did Carter act out because of her obsession with a television actress?
This show doesn’t offer any solutions but it details all of the questions, painfully capturing the disturbing nature of this complex case.
I Love You, Now Die is now available on HBO.