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The Girl From Plainville Is Based on the True Story of Michelle Carter and Conrad Roy

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Hulu hitches another car onto their True Story Train, behind recents like The Dropout and Pam & Tommy. Over the next month and change, the network will roll out its retelling of the Michelle Carter case, the teenager convicted of manslaughter after encouraging her boyfriend, Conrad Roy, to kill himself over text.

The case was also covered in the 2019 HBO documentary I Love You, Now Die: The Commonwealth v. Michelle Carter, which documented the real-life account of the trial, dividing its episodes into the case brought by the prosecution and then Carter’s defense.

Hulu has decided to dramatize the events, taking as inspiration writer Jesse Barron’s Esquire story, “The Girl From Plainville.” (Barron was interviewed at length in the HBO documentary.)

But Hulu strays from the story’s facts.

The series opens with a text card reading, “While this program is based on real events, certain parts have been fictionalized solely for dramatic purposes and are not intended to reflect on any actual person or entity.”

“Any actual person.” The phrase suggests the series does not intend to present any character in the series as true to life. The legalese also allows the series to have its cake and eat it, too: The series can both profit off the “true story” subtext while also dramatizing key details about the story and its resultant legal proceedings—all without fears of defamation. We’re left with a retelling that makes telling dramatic choices, which may influence a viewer’s opinion on the case. It’s best to keep this in mind when viewing.

Here’s what actually happened according to the source material for the Hulu series.

taunton, ma   june 6 michelle carter listens as ada maryclare flynn makes her opening statement, displaying many texts between carter and conrad roy iii, as the trial of carter proceeds in bristol county superior court in taunton, ma on jun 6, 2017 carter is charged with involuntary manslaughter for encouraging the 18 year old conrad roy iii to kill himself in july 2014 photo by pat greenhousethe boston globe via getty images

Boston Globe

The True Story of The Girl From Plainville

Michelle Carter and Conrad Roy met in Naples, Florida, in 2012. Both were visiting family. The two hung out, riding bikes to the beach. Carter was from Plainville, Massachusetts, and Roy was from Mattapoisett, an hour south. In total, according to Lynn Roy, Conrad’s mother, who spoke to Esquire, Roy and Carter met each other no more than five times over the next two years after returning from Florida. But they texted. Sometimes, they texted late into the night.

On July 13, 2014, police discovered Roy’s body in his truck at a Kmart parking lot. He had died from carbon monoxide asphyxiation. He was 18.

Carter was then going into senior year. She was described by classmates as “naïve” and “sheltered”—and that she “wanted the confidence she saw others having.” (This perception of her would later be brought up during trial, as the prosecution attempted to describe motives behind why Carter encouraged Roy to kill himself.)

A few months after the suicide, Massachusetts police obtained a search warrant for Carter’s cell phone. The text messages between her and Roy filled 317 pages. These texts would become the central document for the legal case that was now unfolding

From the exchanges, it appeared as if the two started to become close in the fall of 2012, several months after first meeting. In October, Roy swallowed a bottle of Tylenol in a suicide attempt. He texted Carter shortly after. Carter was also having a difficult time that fall. She had gotten close to a girl on her summer softball team named Alice. She had spent a lot of time with Alice and grown close to her. Then all of a sudden, Alice ghosted Carter. She didn’t know why. Responding to Roy’s text about the suicide attempt, Carter told him she had an eating disorder and was depressed about Alice.

The text conversations become especially intense in June 2014, during which time Carter began to suggest ways for Roy to kill himself—including drinking bleach, hanging, and using carbon monoxide. Roy was also researching methods, having expressed early into his text conversation with Carter his desire to kill himself.

On July 12, he drove to a Kmart parking lot. In the moments before his death, he called Carter twice, though there is no record or what was said. After the suicide, however, Carter texted a friend saying, “I could have stopped him. I was on the phone with him and he got out of the car because it was working and he got scared and I fucking told him to get back in. I could of stopped him but I fucking didnt.”

In February 2015, Carter was indicted on involuntary manslaughter, facing a possible twenty-year sentence.

taunton, ma   june 13 after a sidebar with judge lawrence moniz, attorney joe cataldo returns to the defense table, with his client michelle carter, seated, as defense witness dr peter breggin is being crossed by ada katie rayburn in bristol juvenile court in taunton, ma on jun 13, 2017 carter is charged with involuntary manslaughter for encouraging 18 year old conrad roy iii to kill himself in july 2014 photo by pat greenhousethe boston globe via getty images

Boston Globe

The trial began in June 2017. Assistant district attorney Katie Rayburn made the case for the prosecution, needing to convince Judge Lawrence Moniz (Carter waived her right to a jury) that Carter’s words alone caused Roy’s suicide. The defense’s lawyer, Joseph Cataldo, argued that Roy had long been planning to kill himself. He also argued against the charges themselves, noting how Massachusetts law had not then criminalized suicide, making an accessory to a lawful act also not criminal.

Much of the prosecution’s case hinged on Roy’s phone calls with Carter before he killed himself. Despite not having transcript of the phone calls—and only having Carter’s apparent confessional text to her friend as evidence of what was said—the prosecution argued that the call was a major contributing factor to Roy’s death.

Judge Moniz seemed to agree, and returned with a guilty verdict. “This court finds that instructing Mr. Roy to get back in the truck constituted wanton and reckless conduct,” he said to the court of his verdict. He said Carter had a duty to help Roy after she had put him in danger.

The verdict baffled many legal experts, as it suggested that words alone can cause a suicide.

north dartmouth, ma   january 23 michelle carter walks out of bristol county house of correction in north dartmouth, ma on jan 23, 2020 as correction officers carry her belongings carter was 17 when she urged 18 year old conrad roy iii, a mattapoisett resident, to kill himself in july 2014  even after he told her he was too scared to go through with it after a bench trial that drew national headlines, judge lawrence moniz in june 2017 found carter, of plainville, guilty of involuntary manslaughter she started her sentence in feb 2019 photo by john tlumackithe boston globe via getty images

Boston Globe

Where Is Michelle Carter now?

Carter was sentenced to 15 months in county jail. At the time of sentencing, she was 20. As of December 2021, Carter was out of jail and on probation.

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