Ever since a little girl was found dead in a black garbage bag on a rocky shoreline in Boston three months ago, police had searched in vain to find out who she was.
There was little to go on. An autopsy of her tiny toddler’s body revealed no sign of how she died, no evidence of physical trauma or poison in her bloodstream. The brand and make of the black-and-white polka dotted pants she was wearing and the zebra-striped blanket found alongside her were dutifully noted, but they came from national chains — Target and K-Mart — and could have been purchased anywhere. The tides’ relentless ebb and flow over the rocks where she’d been found had irreversibly damaged the skin of her hands, dashing any hope of obtaining fingerprints. And although a computer-generated composite of what the little girl might have looked like was seen by tens of millions of people online, none of them seemed to know the “Baby Doe” with the big brown eyes and heart-shaped face.
One person who might have recognized her and spoken up says he never saw the image. Joseph Amoroso, 32, told the Boston Globe that he showed up in Boston several weeks ago hoping to meet his daughter, 2½ year old Bella Bond, for the first time. But the girl’s nervous-looking mother, Rachel Bond, kept telling him Bella was out of the city.
Finally, late last week, she made a horrible allegation: Her boyfriend had killed Bella, convinced she was possessed by demons.
Amoroso was with Bond, 40, when authorities picked them both up on Friday at his mother’s home north of Boston, he told the Globe. That day, Bond and her boyfriend were arrested for the girl’s murder.
Bella was Boston’s Baby Doe, no longer a nameless symbol but a real little girl with a life almost as troubling as her death.
According to the Globe, Amoroso was “sickened” by Bond’s account of Bella’s death and discussed with her whether they should contact authorities, though they never did. Amoroso said Bond wound up sending a text letting someone know that the toddler was dead, and that person reached out to police.
Speaking to the Globe and the Associated Press, prosecutors and police declined to comment on the truth of Amoroso’s account. At a news conference Friday, Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley said that a tip called into Boston Police Thursday provided the big break in the case. Police did not identify the source of the tip, but local TV stations WCVB, WPXI and WHDH have all reported that the tipster was a woman.
Bond and her boyfriend Michael McCarthy, 35, are due to appear in court Monday, according to the AP. McCarthy has been charged with Bella’s murder, and Bond as an accessory after the fact. His lawyer said he would enter a plea of not guilty. Bond or an attorney representing her could not be reached for comment. Amoroso has not been charged.
Speaking to the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald from the spot on Deer Island — a windy peninsula dominated by a wastewater treatment plant — where his daughter’s body was found, Amoroso detailed what he could about his daughter’s short life and tragic death.
He and Bella’s mother were homeless when they met, and Bella was conceived three years ago in a tent at the Occupy Boston encampment in the city’s financial district. By the time his daughter was born nine months later, Amoroso had already left the city and moved to Florida. He had to “take care of some things” before he could become a father, he told the Herald.
Amoroso said he was also trying to get away from Bond, whom he “judged harshly” for her history of arrests for drugs and prostitution, according to the Globe. In Florida, he “grew up and got married to someone else.”
But Amoroso had a criminal record of his own in Florida. Public records show convictions for an array of crimes, mostly driving- and drug-related offenses, going back more than a decade. In his most recent offense, Amoroso pleaded guilty in 2012 to resisting an officer with violence and larceny under $100.
Amoroso never met his daughter, though he said he had spoken to her on the phone for a brief period after she turned 2 and was getting better at speech. Bella often said “kitty” because she loved Hello Kitty, the anthropomorphic fictional cat. But Bond cut off contact, Amoroso told the Globe, after the pair argued over money.
From a few phone calls with Bond, Amoroso worried that she was still using drugs. He said that he and his mother called the Department of Children and Families twice to report suspicions of neglect.
During the news conference Friday, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) said that DCF had opened a case on Bond in June 2013, but it was closed a few months later. The agency had previously terminated Bond’s parental rights for two other children, according to WHDH.
When he returned to Boston a few weeks ago, Amoroso decided to look in on his daughter, he told the Globe. But when he showed up at Bond’s home, she put him off, saying their daughter was away on Cape Cod.
At that point, Amoroso said, he had never seen the composite image of “Baby Doe” that reached millions on the Internet. He didn’t think it looked like daughter he’d known only in photos.
At least one person who knew Bella agreed. Tamara Bond, Rachelle Bond’s sister and Bella’s aunt, told Boston’s WCVB that she had been following the Baby Doe case for months but didn’t recognize the doll-like girl in the picture.
“I couldn’t picture the two pieces together — the live little girl and the picture they were showing on TV,” she said.
After several weeks of back and forth, Rachelle Bond called Amoroso in a panic late last week. They spent the night outside by the water in South Boston, while Bond spoke endlessly about Bella. Then she told him what her boyfriend, McCarthy, had done.
“He killed her,” Amoroso told the Herald on Saturday. “He murdered my daughter and then said that he did it because she was a demon. And then continued to say every day to Rachelle that she was a child of Satan sent down and just some crazy stuff.”
In that interview, by a wooden guardrail strewn with flowers, stuffed animals, candles and cards, Amoroso alternately directed his anger at the rest of the world and himself. He questioned why Bella’s neighbors never said anything about the little girl who used to live on their block. But he also lingered over what he could have done differently to save his daughter’s life.
“Those ‘what ifs,’ and ‘could’ves’ and’ should have dones’ … those are things I’m probably going to have to deal with for the rest of my life,” he told the Herald.
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