The text messages started the night her son went missing. Lynn Roy saw the first one around ten-thirty on July 12, 2014: "Do you know where he is?" She saw the second the next day: "Did you call the police yet?" Then a third: "Any news?" The sender, Michelle Carter, was familiar to Lynn as a girl her son, Conrad, texted. She guessed they were friends. It turned out Michelle was right to be worried: That afternoon, July 13, police found Conrad in the parking lot of the Kmart on Route 6 in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, asphyxiated by the carbon monoxide from a water pump in the cab of his F-250.
"Our songs, listen to them and remember me."
A few days later, Conrad's father, Conrad Roy II, discovered a spiral-bound journal at his house. Inside, his son had written down the passwords to his iPhone and to his laptop, along with suicide notes. One was addressed to Michelle, whom Conrad II knew as a girl his son had met years ago, on vacation. "Keep strong in tough times," it read. "Our songs, listen to them and remember me." Another said: "Dad, I'm sorry I wasn't the boy you wanted." Conrad II was a salvage-boat operator, which entailed frequent two-week stints away from home, including one that began the day after Conrad was born. Lately, relations between father and son had been fraught. That February, after a fight, Conrad II had been arrested for punching his son in the face and sending him to the hospital.
The Roys lived in Mattapoisett, a harbor town of six thousand on the state's south coast. The week after Conrad died, they held his wake at a local funeral parlor. In the receiving line, a blond seventeen-year-old girl waited patiently with her mother and introduced herself to Lynn as Michelle Carter. Michelle came from a suburb called Plainville an hour north. Lynn had never been there. It was landlocked, Waspy.
Not long after the funeral, Conrad's little sister, Camdyn, received an email from Michelle. "Conrad did not kill himself because of bullying like everyone assumes," Michelle wrote. "I know the real reasons." She pasted in several messages that Conrad had written her. "I pray every night that this is a bad dream and ill wake up feeling happy and proud of myself and a good kid again," one message said. "I see the world as a horrible place with a bunch of horrible people. There's a shortage of good genuine people like you and me who care." Camdyn showed the email to Lynn.
Lynn recognized the tone. It sounded like her son. He'd had a hard time ever since she and Conrad II had separated, three years earlier. He was getting into fights at school. He refused to get out of bed. A Catholic, he thought that maybe God was testing him. But the week before July 12, he'd seemed better. He'd been talking to Lynn about the future. The morning of the suicide, she had walked with him on Horseneck Beach.