Baby Doe reveals a tragic history of neglect by parents, neighbors, social workers

Earlier this summer, the nation was shocked at the discovery of an unidentified corpse of a toddler wrapped in a trash bag and thrown out on Boston’s Deer Island. For months, investigators have searched for the identity of this Baby Doe as well as for her inhumane murderers.

Finally, after months of dogged detective work, it looks like the case has been cracked wide open. However, what the police found makes for an even more tragic story.

Baby Doe’s real name was Bella Bond, daughter of Rachelle Bond, 40, and her boyfriend Michael McCarthy, 35. After three months of dead ends, an anonymous person called in to inform the department that Ms. Bond’s young daughter had died.

The authorities quickly matched Baby Doe’s DNA and Rachelle and Michael were taken into custody on Thursday. On Friday, McCarthy was charged with murder and Bond with being an accessory to murder after the fact.

“We allege that McCarthy caused Bella’s death, that he did so intentionally, that he and Bond took specific steps to keep Bella’s death a secret and to avoid prosecution,” said Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley.

While the medical examiners have not yet released an official cause of death, reports indicate that Bella was punched in the stomach multiple times. Bond says her boyfriend McCarthy is responsible for that- he thought the child was possessed.

“The tragedy of her death is compounded by the fact that her short life ended not by illness or accident, but we believe by an act of violence in the very place where she should have felt safest, in her home,” said Conley.

Upon learning Baby Doe’s identity, it became clear that social workers had visited the Bond home several times on suspicions of neglect. Yet somehow, Bella fell through the cracks.

The Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) had been keeping tabs on Bond for several years. Two of Rachelle’s older children were already taken from her custody.

With the Baby Doe photos all pervasive this summer, neighbors must have at suspected that Baby Doe was really Bella. They claim to have believed that the toddler had been taken away by social services like the other children.

“I didn’t put two and two together,” said Siomy Torres, a neighbor. “I didn’t want to get into that lady’s business. She always had these creepy guys hanging around.”

As for the DCF, they of course diligently searched through all open cases for a match to Baby Doe’s reconstructed photos. Yet, Bella’s case was closed. The Department did not check through closed files.

This highlights a worrisome trend in the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families- and perhaps throughout the nation. 95 children who had social workers investigating their case have died in the last ten years. And that is only the known open cases.

“Some of the deaths make headlines, but many more children die anonymously, half of them before they celebrate their first birthday,” according to a lengthy expose the Boston Globe wrote on the issue.

Yet many point out that concern for the lives of America’s youngest citizens is always short lived.

“During recent public hearings, legislators were quick to make blustering criticisms of DCF,” said Ms. Bernier, executive director of Massachusetts Citizens for Children. “Where was all this indignation when decisions were made to reduce its budget and cripple it with 200 less social workers? Everyone has to take responsibility here.”

The mother, Rachelle Bond, has a criminal history of heroin possession and prostitution.

“This child, whose very name means beauty, was murdered,” said Conley.

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