Who Killed Baby Doe?: The pitiful remains of a murdered child wash up on a Boston beach. Who killed her and why?
Flesh and Blood: Karl Karlson had lived a life blighted by tragedy. People had a habit of dying around Karl, usually his heavily-insured nearest and dearest.
The Lady in the Lake: A woman’s body turns up at the bottom of a lake 20 years after she disappeared. All of the clues point to her husband. Did he do it?
Might Just Take Your Life: Meet Franklin Floyd, jailbird, bank robber, kidnapper, child molester, with a bit of serial murder thrown in for good measure.
Taxi to Chiswick: An American GI and his jailbait girlfriend cruising the streets of war-torn London, up to no good. There’ll be some blood spilled tonight.
Curtain Call: As an actress, she’d appeared on Britain’s most popular soap. But her most dramatic role was yet to come, that of murder victim.
Daughter of Darkness: Bill Mussack is missing. His daughter insists he’s gone camping. What then is that stench, coming from the crawlspace of his house?
The Perfect Murder: A marriage in trouble, an illicit affair; a convoluted plan. When you set out to commit the perfect murder, the devil’s in the details.
Murder Most Vile Volume 39
Who Killed Baby Doe?
Taking your dog for an early morning walk on the beach should never be a traumatic event. But for one Boston dog-walker that is exactly how the morning of June 25, 2015, turned out. The woman was strolling along the shoreline at Deer Island, the silhouette of the city skyline forming a backdrop across the bay. Then her dog started pulling hard on the lead, dragging her in the direction of an object, lying at the water’s edge, lapped by the incoming tide. Closer observation revealed it to be a green garbage bag. Curious as to what had attracted the dog’s attention, the woman decided to peek inside. She instantly reeled back in horror. The bag contained the corpse of a child, probably no more than three years old.
Ask any homicide investigator about the kind of case that affects them most and they will invariably tell you about a case like this one. The body was badly decomposed, so badly that it was impossible to visually determine its gender or the cause of death. The child was dressed only in white leggings, decorated with a black polka-dot pattern. A zebra-print blanket was also stuffed inside the bag. Other than that, there were few clues to be found at the scene. The police weren’t even able to tell if the body had been dumped on the beach or if it had been deposited there by the tide. It would be up to forensic experts and the medical examiner to unlock those mysteries.
But not before the story had broken in the media, sparking outrage that rippled out from Massachusetts and quickly consumed the nation. There is nothing that provokes an outpouring of emotion quite like the murder of a child. This one was particularly galling. A child had been killed and tossed away like garbage. What kind of a monster does something like that? The authorities were desperate to answer that question. And not just because there was immense public pressure to do so.
Several lines of inquiry were run out simultaneously. A dive team was brought in to trawl the waters for additional clues; cadaver dogs were employed; the US Coast Guard was consulted regarding tidal drift patterns. Meanwhile, detectives were chasing down leads regarding the child’s clothing. The leggings were determined to be from a childrenswear range carried by Target. Pollen lifted from the garment confirmed that the child had lived locally in Boston. There was also a media campaign, with Anderson Cooper and John Walsh providing cover. Anyone who might have seen or heard anything, who even suspected anything, was urged to come forward. As is often the case in such a high-profile inquiry, this brought a deluge of calls but few substantive tips.
And then, on July 3, came the autopsy. The child was determined to be female, Caucasian, between the ages of three and five. There were no obvious signs of trauma to the body, no fractures or contusions. Likewise, no toxins were found in her system. Decomposition made it difficult for the coroner to determine cause of death, but he was adamant about one thing. The victim had not died of natural causes. This was undoubtedly a homicide.
The one question that the autopsy couldn’t answer was the identity of the victim. Who was the little girl the media had dubbed Baby Doe? To unravel that mystery, the police turned to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). A search was conducted of its extensive database, returning 200 potential missing person matches. These were whittled down and whittled down again until all possibilities had been eliminated. Still, the identity of the child remained an enigma. Next, a forensic artist was brought in to create a photo-realistic composite, using information provided by the police and by the coroner’s office. Baby Doe had a face at last and that face would soon appear in newspapers from coast to coast, on billboards across Boston, on every social media platform. The Twitter post alone produced over 500 shares.
And yet, despite a renewed flood of incoming tips, Baby Doe remained nameless. Someone must have known who she was; someone must have been missing her, but that person wasn’t coming forward. Other avenues, using Mitochondrial DNA, also came up empty. None of the national databases returned a potential match. There were genuine fears at this time that the child would never be identified and that her killer would get away with murder.
Three months passed during which the police chased down hundreds of tips, all of them ultimately useless. Then, finally, a break. A tipster called in to report an exchange with a neighbor of her sister, a woman named Rachelle Bond. Bond had a two-year-old daughter named Bella who, according to the tipster, bore a strong resemblance to Baby Doe. She hadn’t seen Bella in a while and so she decided to confront Rachelle and her boyfriend, Michael McCarthy, about the child’s whereabouts. The pair, who she described as drug addicts, told her that Bella had been taken by social services. The woman didn’t believe them. Then, after she saw some of Bella’s toys thrown away in the trash, she decided to contact the authorities.
On the face of it, this tip was no different from dozens of others that the police had received. But it became far more relevant once it was clear that Bella had not been taken by the Department of Children and Families, as her mother had claimed. On September 17, 2015, police executed a search warrant at Rachael Bond’s apartment in the Dorchester area of Boston. Bond was not home at the time. One of the first items that investigators recovered was a white top with black polka dots, the matching item to the leggings Baby Doe had been wearing when she was found. When Bond returned to her apartment that day, she was taken into custody.
Rachael Bond was never going to be a candidate for mother of the year. The 40-year-old was a longstanding drug user with a substantial police record that included multiple arrests for prostitution. By the time she gave birth to Bella in 2012, two of her children had already been removed from her custody by the state. There were conflicting reports regarding her treatment of Bella. Some neighbors said that she was attentive to the child and that they often heard her talking to Bella and singing to her. Home video of Bella’s second birthday party seems to support this view. This shows a sweet little girl, happily playing and opening her presents.
But that does not tell the full story. There were also complaints lodged against Bond for neglect of her daughter, complaints that had brought the police to her door on no fewer than four occasions. There had also been two investigations by the Department of Children and Families. Both cases were ultimately closed, with Bella remaining in her mother’s care.
Bella’s father was a man named Michael Amoroso but he played no part in his daughter’s life and had never even met her. In his stead, was a succession of Rachael’s deadbeat boyfriends, terminating with probably the worst of them all, Michael McCarthy, a heroin addict with an obsessive interest in Satanism and demonology. Even McCarthy’s friends warned Rachael to stay away from him, telling her that he was crazy. It was a warning she failed to heed, with terrible consequences for an innocent child.
Rachael Bond told conflicting stories about what had happened to her daughter. The only consistent theme was that she was innocent and that Michael McCarthy was solely responsible for Bella’s death. The gist of it was this. One night in May 2015, Bella was acting up and so Rachael sent McCarthy into her room to settle her down. After a few minutes, she became concerned and went to see what was happening. She found McCarthy beating Bella, repeatedly punching the child in the stomach. One of the blows was delivered with such force that the little girl “bounced” off the bed and landed on the floor. Rachael tried to intervene, but McCarthy dragged her into the lounge and shot her up with heroin. “Bella is possessed by demons,” he told her as the drugs took hold. “It’s her time to die.”
According to Bond, she and McCarthy would continue on a drug bender for the next three days. When she eventually regained her senses, she found to her horror that McCarthy had stuffed Bella’s corpse into the refrigerator, to delay decomposition in the midst of a hot Boston summer.
So what did the mother do after making this horrific discovery? Did she flee, screaming, from the apartment? Did she confront her daughter’s killer? Go to a neighbor for help? Call the police? No, Rachael Bond went right back to getting high, living out the next month with her baby daughter’s corpse stashed in the fridge. During that time, she even continued cashing the welfare and housing assistance checks that were being sent to her for Bella’s care.
But, of course, they could not keep the body in the apartment forever. Eventually, with decomposition setting in, despite their efforts, McCarthy decided to dispose of the corpse. Again painting herself as the innocent, Bond claimed that she was not involved in the decision. She said that McCarthy asked her to drive with him to his father’s house. It was only when he opened the trunk of the car at that location that she realized it contained Bella’s corpse. McCarthy then stuffed the remains into a green duffle bag which he weighed down with several barbells. Later that day, he threw the bag into the sea.
The police were initially skeptical of this story. Bond’s entire testimony had been peppered with inconsistencies, inaccuracies, and outright lies. Besides, they already knew that Bella had been found in a green garbage bag, no duffle bag in sight. Nonetheless, investigators managed to identify the section of coastline from Bond’s patchy description. Divers were sent into the water there. Within minutes, they recovered the duffle bag. Rachael had been telling the truth. It appeared that the gas that builds up in a body after death had lifted the tiny corpse out of the bag and brought it to the surface. From there, it had been carried on the tide to wash up on Deer Island. But for that, Bella would never have been found and her killers would likely have gotten away with murder. It was almost as though the little girl had risen from the depths to see that justice was done.
Michael McCarthy’s version of events was somewhat simpler than the one given by his girlfriend. At his June 2017 trial, he claimed that he was not even in the apartment when Bella died. According to him, he had moved out days earlier because he could no longer stand to witness Rachael’s physical and emotional abuse of the child. The next time he called at the apartment, Bella was gone. Rachael told him that the child had been taken by social services.
Unfortunately for McCarthy, his story was undone by a series of texts he’d sent to Rachael, coaching her on what to say to the police and to anyone who asked about Bella’s whereabouts. Rachael also asserted on the stand that he’d threatened to kill her if she implicated him in Bella’s death. That was enough for the jury to find him guilty. They wavered, however, on the first-degree charge. McCarthy was ultimately convicted of second-degree murder. He was sentenced to life in prison and will be eligible for parole in 2037.
And Rachael Bond? She walked away with a sweetheart deal. In exchange for her testimony, she was allowed to plead to “accessory after the fact” and sentenced to just two years in prison. With time served, she walked away a free woman, albeit one who is universally reviled in her hometown. The blood of her innocent baby daughter will be forever on her hands. It will weigh heavy on her conscience. That is, of course, if Rachael Bond has a conscience at all.
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