BOSTON — After 23 hours of deliberation, a jury has found Michael McCarthy guilty of murdering the two-year-old girl that became nationally known as “Baby Doe.”
The homicide case drew national attention when a woman walking her dog on Boston’s Deer Island found the girl sealed inside a black plastic trash bag. No one reported the two-year-old girl missing, and for nearly three months the infant was known only as “Baby Doe” while detectives chased leads around the world trying to track her down her identity. Her computer generated image was plastered around the city on posters and billboards, and shared on Facebook tens of millions of times.
Police identified her as Bella Bond, daughter of Rachelle Bond. Bond and her boyfriend McCarthy were arrested, but only he was charged with the girl’s murder after Bond agreed to testify for the prosecution. McCarthy will be sentenced Wednesday.
The Commonwealth argued that McCarthy struck Bella in the stomach until her face turned gray and told the girl’s mother that the child “was a demon” and that it was her “time to die.”
McCarthy’s defense attorney Jonathan Shapiro argued that Bond killed her daughter and was trying to pin the murder rap on her ex-boyfriend. Bond pled guilty to larceny and accessory to Bella’s murder after the fact, and will be released on two year’s probation after the conclusion of the trial.
The Commonwealth “made a deal with the devil and the devil is Rachelle Bond,” said Shapiro in his closing arguments.
McCarthy who had confidently walked into the courtroom wearing a beige suit, shaking each of his attorney’s hands, looked askance at the jury as his fate was announced, and left in cuffs, without locking eyes with his father or brother who sat still and silent in the front row.
Michael Sprinsky, who first tipped off authorities about the child’s death, and acted as a witness in the case against McCarthy, his childhood friend.
Megan Trewell, Bella Bond’s godmother, who, besides Sprinsky, was the only other person in the courtroom who knew the toddler when she was alive, stood before a swarm of reporters outside.
“Finally, justice for Bella,” she said, after recalling that Bella’s love of cats, cartoons, and the beach, and how she’d lift her feet up when her toes touched the sand.
During that time, Trewell said she had contacted the Department of Children and Families on Bella’s behalf.
“I didn’t hear anything, so I thought everything was fine,” said Trewell.
It was later revealed that DCF had in two instances, cut and paste information from a previous report on Bella’s mother, Rachelle Bond. Later, Bella’s death would prompt reform in the troubled department.
Trewell said the computer generated image of “Baby Doe” didn’t look like Bella to her, but still something about the picture stuck with her and so she texted DCF again.
“The only thing that was accurate were her eyes. I kept saying that to my mother on the phone, we were talking, I said, ‘Mom, it doesn’t look like her but her eyes,’ it was her eyes.”
Though Trewell is relieved with the verdict, and she does not believe Bond killed her child, she wishes that Bella’s mom was sentenced to more time. “She let me down, she let Bella down,” said Trewell.
The defense was widely seen as having a strong case leading up to the verdict because Bond was a problematic witness: for almost three months she lived with McCarthy and did not report her child’s death to police, and then ran when police first came to her door.
She testified over the course of five days, in which time the defense harped on what he said were contradictory statements, diary entries she wrote about a cabal of world leaders who abducted children and fed their blood to reptilian leaders, and statements she made to others, in which she said she believed daemons were trying to get to Bond by way of her daughter.
The prosecution, lead by Assistant District Attorney David Deakin, had little evidence other than Bond’s word that McCarthy killed her child. In part because Bella’s body had been underwater for three weeks, a medical examiner could not find a clear cause of death.
But though Shapiro, a short, soft spoken man, with long white hair, delivered ferocious closing argument, in which he expressed his disgust for the deal the government made with Bond, who he said is the real killer, once the jury left the courtroom, he was rattled by a decision Judge Janet Sanders made regarding jury instructions.
In his closing argument, Shapiro had told jurors that if they did not believe that McCarthy was the sole person responsible for Bella’s death, then they must acquit. Judge Sander told jurors that that was not the case.
“The Commonwealth does not have the burden of excluding the possibility that one or more persons were involved in the crime,” she said. “Mr. McCarthy is the individual on trial.”
“I’m beside myself,” Shapiro told the judge in the hearing. “You’re screwing up my whole case!”
Shapiro claimed that the judge had in essence introduced a charge that was not on the verdict slip. Deakin argued that the state had proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Bond was accessory after the fact to her daughter’s murder, but they did not have to prove that she was not additionally involved in the murder to convict McCarthy of the crime.
In fact, in his emotional closing arguments, Deakin further implicated Bond when he placed her with McCarthy, when he allegedly returned to the site where he dumped the body the day Bella’s body was found on Deer Island. This contradicted Bond’s previous statement that she did not know there was a national search for her daughter until moments before she was arrested.
After the verdict today, Shapiro told the press, “The verdict was a travesty of justice. It sets a criminal free and sends an innocent person to prison.” He said he planned to appeal.
District Attorney Daniel F. Conley stood with prosecutors and the detectives who worked the case, and stated that though they were relieved with the verdict, “we don’t take any joy here.”
His prepared statement to the press addressed not only the homicide case, but also the opioid epidemic. Both McCarthy, Bond, and many other witnesses in this case regularly used heroin.
“To anyone who says that drug dealing is a victimless, nonviolent crime, I would point to this case. Bella was a homicide victim but she was just as surely a victim of addiction and desperation in the very people she was supposed to rely on for love and care,” said Conley.
“The people who occupied Bella’s world were almost all in the throes of heroin addiction and that’s who the jury saw and that’s who they heard,” he added.
“They are not witnesses we would have wanted but we don’t get to choose our witnesses.”
Bond was alerted to McCarthy’s verdict later that afternoon, according to a spokesperson.