Friday, September 18, 2015
'Baby Doe' identified, murder charges filed
A mother and her boyfriend are "blaming each other" for the death of a little girl whose body was found inside a trash bag on a Boston Harbor island this summer after a months-long campaign to learn the child's identity.
BOSTON - Prosecutors have charged a man with the murder of "Baby Doe," the mystery child whose innocent face sparked millions of followers on social media as Massachusetts police desperately hunted for clues about her identity.
The child is identified as Bella Bond, whose family had occasionally been the subject of neglect complaints before the girl was found dead in a trash bag on a Boston Harbor island this summer, authorities said.
"At just shy of three years old, Bella Bond was a true innocent," Suffolk District AttorneyDaniel Conley said at a Friday news conference announcing the charges. "This child, whose very name means beauty, was murdered."
Michael McCarthy, 35, the boyfriend of Bella's mother Rachelle Bond, is charged with murder. He is currently being treated at a Boston hospital for drug issues. Rachelle Bond, 40, is under arrest on a charge of accessory to murder after the fact.
The child's pleasant, cherubic face - created by a composite sketch artist before her identity was known - has been plastered on social media and has drawn nearly 50 million clicks on Facebook alone.
Conley declined to elaborate on the tip that lead to Bella's identification, but commended the use of social media in helping investigators finally put a name to Baby Doe.
"We could have never knocked on 50 million doors, but did the equivalent of just that with the use of social media," he said.
The Massachusetts House speaker says the mother and her boyfriend are blaming each other for the girl's death.
The girl was 2 1/2 years old when she died. Her body was found June 25 inside a trash bag on Deer Island in Winthrop by a woman walking a dog.
"I don't have confirmation but there seems to be a tremendously strong sense" that it is Bella, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said at a press conference. He said the state Department of Children and Families had a case open -- and closed -- on Bella in 2013.
Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo, D-Winthrop, said he has been briefed on the investigation and that the police are confident in determining how she died.
"They feel they have the perpetrators of this crime," DeLeo said during a news conference.
"It appears as though it was a situation of the boyfriend who was involved and apparently, I think, mother and boyfriend sort of blaming each other in terms of who harmed the child."
Bella's body was found by a woman walking her dog on June 25 in Winthrop, Mass., on Deer Island. The peninsula juts out into Boston Harbor and is home to a waste water treatment plant and walking trails.
The little girl was found stuffed into a trash bag with a zebra-print blanket and wearing polka-dot leggings.
Authorities posted to social media a photograph-like image generated by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children created from autopsy photographs.
Officials from the state's child protection agency said they had contact with Bella twice, for four months in 2012 and three months in 2013. In both cases, officials described the involvement as "support for neglect," and the cases were later closed.
Between 2001 and 2006, the Department of Children and Families terminated parental rights for two of her mother's older children. One of the children was later adopted by her maternal grandmother; the other was adopted by someone outside the family, DCF officials said.
Rhonda Mann, a spokeswoman for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, said the agency has been working with law enforcement for several months in an effort to help police identify the girl.
"Now that we know her name, the story is no less tragic. DCF has not had an open case with this family for over two years, but did have brief involvement with Baby Bella as an infant," she said in a statement.
Because the case involving Bella had been closed, it was not among cases that DCF examined after the discovery of the remains on Deer Island, the agency said.