“You killed my kid!” Rachelle Bond screamed. Michael McCarthy just glared at her, as he crouched over the child on one knee. “She was a demon,” he told her. “It was her time to die.”
Bella Bond had not yet lived to see three. Her lifeless body bounced on the the mattress under the force of McCarthy’s blow, her face turning gray. He was supposed to be putting Bella to bed. Rachelle had only left him alone with her child for five minutes, and he had been so good with Bella before. Bond put her mouth to her daughter’s, and puffed out three breaths, she was trying to pull together what she learned of CPR from high school—it didn’t work. So Bond tried to cradle her baby in her arms. That’s when McCarthy grabbed Bond by the throat, and before she passed out, threatened to kill her.
That’s the story Bond told a jury in a Boston courthouse on Friday when she took the stand for two hours, for the first part of her long-awaited testimony on her daughter’s death. When little Bella’s body washed ashore in black garbage bag on Boston’s Deer Island, she captured the city’s and the world’s imagination, as for months she remained “Baby Doe,” unidentified and unclaimed.
For his part, McCarthy claims Rachel Bond killed her daughter, and is trying to pin him for the crime. In the months Bella was missing, he says he thought she was taken by the Department of Children and Families, like Bond’s other two kids.
The ends of Bond’s long black hair have been trimmed neatly since she was first arraigned in September 2015. The gauntness in her cheeks is gone; during her stay at the Suffolk County House of Correction, she’s put on weight. She made a deal with the commonwealth for her testimony by pleading guilty to accessory to murder after the fact, and larceny, and will be released from jail, on two years’ probation after the trial.
But even as the government presented its argument—that McCarthy killed Bella, and threatened Bond, scaring her so badly she didn’t tell anyone her child was murdered until months later—the defense chipped away at Bond’s testimony, undercutting key points of the government’s argument, even before cross-examining the government’s star witness.
Indeed, Friday was a rough day for Assistant District Attorney David Deakin.
The morning began with a cross-examination of Michael Sprinsky, McCarthy’s family friend. He had previously testified that while visiting the Maxwell St. home, both Bond and McCarthy were harsh with Bella. McCarthy, he claimed, locked the girl in a closet, and raved that she had been taken over by demons. On Friday Sprinsky was in tears, explaining how McCarthy had supported him through his mother’s cancer, and his struggles with addiction. “He used to help me,” said Sprinsky, looking at McCarthy, tenderly, from the stand.
Then McCarthy’s brother, Joseph McCarthy Jr., took the stand—again, as a government witness. McCarthy Jr. conjured tender images of the child: Bella said “Up, please!” when she wanted to be held. McCarthy Jr. broke down in tears recalling an incident when his father had orchestrated for Bella to meet a man in a rabbit suit, “She was thrilled the Easter Bunny knew her name.”
But McCarthy Jr. momentarily tripped up the even-keeled prosecutor, when asked about his brother’s car, a gray Chevy Cavalier passed down through the family.
This is the car the government claims McCarthy drove to the shore of South Boston, with Bella’s body in the back seat, in a duffle bag, her legs sticking out, and Bond in the front. Bond’s story is that McCarthy hit her in the head and knocked her out, after she saw her daughter’s legs and started screaming. Deakin says that transmissions made between McCarthy’s phone and a nearby cell phone tower confirm he made the ride.
On the stand today, Joseph McCarthy Jr., said that his brother didn’t get the car fixed and fit for the road until July 2015—after Bella’s body was found.
The other piece of evidence seemingly implicating McCarthy—proof the government has used to argue that McCarthy was the mastermind behind the horrific crime–are a set of weights. They were found wrapped up in the black plastic trash bag along with Bella’s body and a fleece zebra-print blanket, and they came from McCarthy’s father’s plumbing office. It’s an office, Deakin made clear in his direct testimony of Joseph McCarthy Jr., that Bond does not have keys to.
But the government’s efforts to link the weights to McCarthy alone were complicated on cross-examination when defense attorney Jonathan Shapiro asked Joseph McCarthy Jr. about the time he helped his brother move into the apartment with Bond.
McCarthy Jr. said he lifted his brother’s duffel bag out of his car. “When I pulled the duffel bag it dropped heavily,” said McCarthy Jr., adding that Michael McCarthy told him that he had packed weights, from the plumbing office, so she could use them to exercise. She had recently had stomach surgery, and she was using them to recover.
Deakin, the Assistant District Attorney, did not object. Though later, he grew frustrated with Joseph McCarthy Jr. during the recross, when he asked him about his brother’s thoughts on the supernatural.
“Does your brother believe in bad spirits?” Deakin asked.
“Yes and no,” said McCarthy Jr.
Later, McCarthy Jr. admitted that he’d previously told a grand jury, “I think [Michael] does [believe in bad spirits].” He added that he knew his brother researched Satanism.
As for Bond’s testimony, Deakin seemed to be trying to step out in front of her potential credibility problems.
The jury learned today about Bond’s drug problem, which escalated from marijuana, to cocaine, to crack to heroin. The McCarthy brothers share an opioid addiction as well, which Joseph McCarthy admitted on the stand. (Shapiro has admitted his client is a drug user as well.) The three of them used to rotate—while one would use heroin in the bathroom, the others would mind Bella, according to Bond.
Deakin also walked Bond through her extensive criminal record, which includes convictions for drug crimes and prostitution, and her life on the street. Deakin had Bond tell the jury what happened with her other children: the son who got taken away for her by the Department of Children and Families for risk of “neglect and physical abuse”; the twins who did not survive; and her daughter who got taken away, too.
On the stand today, Bond told for the first time the story of how she met Bella’s father, Joseph Amoroso. She was outside a 7-Eleven, and thought he looked cute, so she asked him for some change. They hit it off, went to smoke crack, and started living with each other right away, eventually pairing up to live in a tent in Occupy Boston. His mother and stepfather joined them at Occupy shortly after that.
The jury learned of Bond’s attempts to move out of tent when she learned she was pregnant. How she was arrested on prior charges, and how Amoroso stopped writing to her in jail. Bond explained how she raised Bella in a shelter until she got an apartment, via public housing, and lived on disability benefits. She explained how she sold her PTSD and anxiety medication for cash, for things for Bella, and for herself too. The jury learned how she first met McCarthy in 2014 outside a CVS, after filling her prescription, and gave McCarthy pills. Bella was with her, in her stroller. Bella liked McCarthy’s Pomeranian, Bailey.
McCarthy didn’t text her until a year later, looking for pills, in February 2015. Not wanting to take Bella and the stroller out in the snow, Bond invited McCarthy over, told him he could pick up the drugs at her home. After an intense conversation about astrology, reiki, and conspiracy theories about government brainwashing, which Bond said McCarthy had read on Info Wars, he spent the night. He ended up staying until September.
Bond told her account of her daughter’s murder. She explained how McCarthy wanted her to be stricter with her daughter—but that, except for an incident where he put Bella in the closet for being “fresh,” he had otherwise been good with the toddler.
She said she and McCarthy were watching a movie—pre-recorded, since McCarthy allegedly made her cancel cable due to a government “brainwashing” conspiracy—when Bella got out of bed. “I’ll go tell her to lay down,” Bond says McCarthy told her. Five minutes later, she went to check on them. She saw through the crack in the door the light was on. She opened it and says she walked into a murder scene.
What night was that exactly? Bond says she isn’t sure. She was a stay-at-home mother, didn’t pay too much attention to time, and the next few hours—day, days? she isn’t sure—were a blur of horror, heroin, and grief, interrupted only when McCarthy told her to put her shoes on.
It was dark, and she says McCarthy knocked her out, though she recognized she was in South Boston when she came to. She’d taken the wrong bus there once.
When they came home, she says she lay down on the bed, and McCarthy joined her. “He was right there next to me, I felt pretty trapped,” said Bond.
The prosecution will likely ask more questions about how she was trapped and why Bond didn’t tell anyone Bella was dead until months later. Deakin already asked about how McCarthy had her cancel her phone line. In a pretrial hearing, the judge ruled that testimony about Bond believing McCarthy had supernatural powers is admissible in court.
The men and women of the 15-person jury panel are likely going into the weekend feeling pretty trapped, too. Either they take Bond at her word—or they accept that Bella’s real killer could be about to walk free.