The new texting suicide case is not as similar to Michelle Carter's manslaughter trial as you may think
29 October 2019 20:05
(CNN)The case of a former Boston College student charged Monday in her boyfriend's death bears striking similarities to one of the most compelling criminal trials of the last few years -- that of Michelle Carter's texting suicide case.
Both feature young women charged with involuntary manslaughter for encouraging their boyfriends to kill themselves, according to prosecutors. Both rely on extensive text message evidence. And both took place in Massachusetts.
But despite their similarities, the cases do have clear differences in the runup to the suicides and in the defendants' alleged intent.
Carter had met her boyfriend, Conrad Roy, only a handful of times before he died, and their relationship was largely maintained digitally and over the phone. However, the BC student's death came after an 18-month relationship full of manipulation and abuse, Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins said Monday.
"I think the facts will show in Carter there was very limited physical contact prior and some very egregious language in the instance or moments leading up to the death," she said.
"We have quite frankly (in the BC case), I would say the opposite of that. We have a barrage of a complete and utter attack on this man's very will and conscience and psyche by an individual to the tune of 47,000 text messages in the two months leading up."
The case against Inyoung You
Rollins' comments came as she announced that Inyoung You, a 21-year-old former Boston College student, was charged in an indictment with involuntary manslaughter for her boyfriend's suicide.
You allegedly tracked the location of her boyfriend, Alexander Urtula, on May 20 and was present when he jumped from a parking garage just hours before his BC graduation, Rollins told reporters.
Authorities said You was "physically, verbally and psychologically abusive" toward Urtula during their relationship. That abuse became more frequent, more powerful and more demeaning in the days and hours leading up to his suicide, Rollins said.
You sent him more than 47,000 text messages and prosecutors said she had complete and total control over Urtula. She repeatedly told him to "go kill himself" or "go die" and that she, his family and the world would be better off without him, officials said.
She also allegedly used manipulative attempts and threats of self-harm to control him and isolate him from his family, officials said.
Rollins portrayed the case as one example of an "epidemic" of domestic violence, which she said affects people regardless of gender.
"Domestic violence may not always look the same, but it is always about power and control," she said.
You was scheduled to graduate in May 2020 but withdrew from classes in August, according to the school's spokesperson. She is currently in her native South Korea, and the district attorney's office is "cautiously optimistic" that she will return to the United States voluntarily to face the charge.
"If she does not, we will utilize the power we have to get her back," Rollins said.
In a news release, the DA's office said it's working with You's counsel to coordinate an arraignment. A grand jury returned an indictment October 18. CNN has not been able to reach You or her counsel for comment.
The case against Michelle Carter
Carter's case -- with its doe-eyed defendant, extensive text message evidence and intriguing legal questions on free speech and suicide -- captured widespread attention during her 2017 trial and follow-up appeals. HBO recently released a documentary on the case titled, "I Love You, Now Die: The Commonwealth v. Michelle Carter."
Carter was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to 15 months in jail for the death of Roy, her 18-year-old boyfriend who died in 2014 of carbon monoxide poisoning in his pickup truck in Fairhaven, Massachusetts. Carter was 17 at the time.
As in You's case, Carter's trial featured a bevy of intimate text messages pressuring her boyfriend to go through with his suicide plan.
"I thought you wanted to do this. The time is right and you're ready, you just need to do it! You can't keep living this way," Carter wrote to Roy in one of dozens of texts.
But unlike in You's case, Carter was not present during her boyfriend's death. Prosecutors argued that she listened over the phone as he took his last breaths and that she failed to alert police or his family that he had died.
Their intents were also decidedly different. Rollins likened You's intent to the "power and control" of domestic violence, but Carter's intent, as one prosecutor said in court, was "for her own personal gain and quest for attention."
The defense portrayed Carter as a troubled, delusional young woman struggling with her own depression. They said Roy's death was a tragedy -- but not a crime.
Still, the state's highest court upheld the conviction in February. Her attorneys have appealed that decision to the US Supreme Court.
CNN's Julia Jones contributed to this report.