Father of slain toddler tells how he learned of death
Joseph Amoroso arrived in Boston several weeks back on what he said was a mission to meet his 2½-year-old daughter for the first time.
He visited Bella Bond’s home on Maxwell Street in Dorchester twice, he said, only to be told by the girl’s mother, Rachelle Bond, that the girl was on Cape Cod. Her darting eyes told a different story. By the end of last week, after they had spent about 24 hours together, he said, she told him the awful truth.
“Our daughter is dead,” Amoroso claimed Bond confessed to him. “The guy that’s been living in my house murdered our daughter.”
Amoroso, 32, said Bond told him that her boyfriend, 35-year-old Michael McCarthy, killed their daughter because he was convinced she was possessed by demons; the little girl died weeks before her body was discovered June 25, stuffed in a black plastic trash bag on a rocky beach on Deer Island.
Amoroso said he was sickened by what he had learned and that he and Bond talked about whether they should go to the police or FBI. They never did. He said Bond sent a text alerting someone else that Bella was dead and that person notified police. However, that assertion could not be confirmed.
For nearly three months after her body was found, no one stepped forward to claim Bella. The world knew her only as Baby Doe, and Massachusetts State Police detectives launched a worldwide investigation to determine her identity.
On Friday, Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley announced that the case had been broken: McCarthy was being charged with Bella’s murder; Rachelle Bond, 4o, was being charged as an accessory after the fact.
On Saturday, Amoroso, a lean man with a shaved head and a lengthy criminal record in Florida, sat on the wooden railing overlooking the Deer Island beach where his daughter’s body was discovered, his Bible resting at his side, and laid out a sad and strange story of Bella’s life and death.
Conley’s spokesman, Jake Wark, declined to comment on the substance of Amoroso’s account, saying that prosecutors have avoided discussing the facts of the case since the arrest.
“We will present our case at arraignment, based on the facts and evidence developed since June 25,” Wark said.
Amoroso said he and Bond were homeless when they met, and Bella was conceived in a tent in the Occupy Boston encampment downtown. But Amoroso said he did not stick around to meet his daughter, who was born in August 2012: He had discovered Bond’s long history of arrests for drugs and prostitution, he said, and judged her harshly. He moved to Florida, he said, where he had grown up, and got married to someone else.
Amoroso said he was not a part of his child’s life, but he occasionally talked to Rachelle Bond on the phone. She slurred her words when she spoke, he said, and he believed she was on drugs.
The Department of Children and Families had already taken two of Bond’s children, according to the agency. Bond had told a defense attorney in 2011 that she was bipolar, prescribed Klonopin, and had been in a methadone program for 10 months.
Amoroso said that both he and his mother called complaints of neglect into DCF. The agency has confirmed that two complaints, in late 2012 and summer of 2013, came in about the girl, but both were closed within a few months. The agency did not divulge who made the complaints, and has said it was not involved with Bella after 2013.
Amoroso admitted he did not participate in Bella’s life, insisting that he had to “straighten a couple things out” in Florida before he could be a father. He declined to elaborate, but said he had to deal with “minor court issues.” Court documents show that he has an eight-page criminal record in Florida that dates back to 2000 and includes convictions for drug crimes and resisting an officer with violence. He most recently pleaded guilty in 2012 to resisting an officer with violence and larceny under $100.
Though Amoroso never met his daughter, he said, he talked to her on the phone occasionally for a period of about two weeks when she was 2 and just learning to talk. She could say the word “kitty,” because, he said, she loved Hello Kitty. Bond cut off contact, he said, after they fought about money.
Amoroso claimed he never saw the composite image of his daughter that was shared on social media millions of times and beamed across national television after her body was discovered. And, though he never saw his daughter in person, he insisted that the composite did not look the way the girl looked “in the flesh.”
His mother, he said, saw the resemblance, but instead of calling authorities “she just started praying.”
Amoroso’s mother, who lives in Lynn, agreed to an interview, but a male companion canceled it in a phone call.
When Amoroso came back to his mother’s home from Florida several weeks ago, he said he had visited Bella’s home, but did not find out where his daughter was until after receiving a panicked call from Bond last week. Amoroso claims that Bond told him that McCarthy had held her against her will and injected heroin straight into her jugular to keep her docile.
McCarthy is currently hospitalized for abscesses in his arms due to heroin use, according to an official with knowledge of the investigation, and Amoroso claimed that Bond told him she was only able to escape after his hospitalization.
Amoroso said that he met Bond after her phone call. She did not immediately tell him what had happened to Bella. Bond said she wanted to sleep by the water, so they spent the night outdoors in South Boston, and all she talked about was Bella, he said. Bond did not say the child was dead, just that Amoroso would find out everything.
It was only after they had spent about 24 hours together that she finally laid out the “horrific” details of their daughter’s death, said Amoroso. He declined to elaborate.
An official with knowledge of the investigation said that Bond ultimately told investigators that McCarthy punched the girl in the stomach until she died; authorities are proceeding with the theory that McCarthy did something violent to the girl’s stomach that caused her death.
Officials with knowledge of the investigation have said her body was likely refrigerated before it was disposed of.
Amoroso said that Bond told him McCarthy had once been good with Bella, but became convinced that she was possessed.
“He had something else inside him that looked like light, but it wasn’t,” said Amoroso, describing what Bond conveyed about McCarthy.
After Bella’s death, Amoroso said, Bond told him that McCarthy kept reminding her that Bella was a “child of Satan.”
According to Amoroso, both he and Bond were picked up by authorities on Friday at his mother’s house in Lynn. Amoroso has not been charged.
Bond’s relatives could not be reached for comment. She is being represented by attorney Janice Bassil, who said she met briefly with her client. In 2009, Bassil argued insanity in the 2009 murder trial of Angela Vasquez, who killed her two children in Roslindale and was found to be insane.
Bassil said she does not know much yet about Bond’s case.
McCarthy’s relatives declined to comment. He is being represented by attorney Jonathan Shapiro, who said in an interview that his client remains hospitalized.
“Obviously he will be entering a plea of not guilty, and that’s all I can say about the case,” Shapiro said.
McCarthy and Bond are scheduled to be arraigned Monday in the Dorchester division of the Boston Municipal Court.
Amoroso’s father, Anthony, 61, said his son telephoned him Friday and told him he needed to see a lawyer and possibly approach the FBI. Anthony Amoroso said he later learned Bella was dead.
“I’m shocked. I’m confused. It’s overwhelming,” he said Saturday by phone from Clearwater, Fla. “Bella was my only granddaughter. I was hoping someday soon I would have an opportunity to hold her in my arms and give her a kiss on the cheek.”
Anthony Amoroso, who never met Bella, said he was moved by how the composite image of his granddaughter was seen by millions of people worldwide while investigators searched to learn her name and the circumstances of her death.
“Wasn’t that the greatest thing to see that outpouring of humanity,” he said. “She touched a lot of people’s hearts and minds.”