The state Department of Children and Families will review its involvement with the little girl found dead on a Deer Island beach in June and move swiftly to implement a series of recommendations to identify and protect children at risk, Governor Charlie Baker said Sunday.
DCF will “take a good look at the case” and update its risk assessment and intake systems, Baker said while attending an event in South Boston. “Tragedies like this illustrate just how important it is we get this done and get it done quickly.”
Bella Bond, known to the world only as “Baby Doe” until the arrests last week of her mother and her mother’s boyfriend, had been the subject of a DCF investigation twice before — in 2012 and 2013 — following reports of neglect made to the agency. DCF spokeswoman Andrea Grossman said the agency is unable to discuss the details of the case, which was closed over two years ago under the previous administration.
Bella’s mother, Rachelle Bond, 40, had two other children taken away from her years before her third child was born.
Now, Bond’s boyfriend, Michael McCarthy, 35, has been charged with Bella’s murder, and Bond is charged with being an accessory after the fact. Bond told investigators that McCarthy, who believed the 2½-year-old girl was possessed, pummeled her in the stomach until her body fell limp. Both will be arraigned Monday in Dorchester District Court.
Bella’s biological father, Joseph Amoroso, 32, said Saturday that Bond told him late last week that their daughter had been killed by her boyfriend. Amoroso did not contact authorities with the information.
On Sunday, Boston police spokesman Stephen McNulty said Amoroso would not be charged.
Jake Wark, spokesman for the Suffolk district attorney’s office, said the “evidence so far supports the charges laid out Friday.”
On Sunday, neighbors on Devlin Passway in Fitchburg, where Bond lived about a decade ago with her then-boyfriend and a daughter, described her as a drug addict who often neglected her child.
Archie Dutrizac, 42, said Bond lived on the floor above him in a multifamily house for a little more than a year before she was evicted for failing to pay rent.
Dutrizac said that Bond’s boyfriend at the time, whose name he could not recall, sold drugs out of the couple’s apartment. Strangers regularly came and went from their unit, he said.
Dutrizac said Bond often left her daughter on the first floor with his parents, who also lived in the residence, and would not retrieve the girl until 1 or 2 a.m.
“Sometimes she wouldn’t even ask” before leaving the child, said Arthur H. Dutrizac, 80, who still lives in the building.
Archie Dutrizac said his wife once went upstairs to say hello to Bond and witnessed her spanking her daughter after the child had spilled a drink.
“She had a temper,” Dutrizac said. “She didn’t talk to the kid to teach [her] anything.”
He added that when Bond first moved in, she appeared “kind of normal” before her condition worsened because of drug use.
“It just all happened almost at once,” he said.
Court records show that Rachelle Bond had a lengthy criminal record dating to 1999 that included drug possession, assault, theft, and prostitution. McCarthy also has a criminal record, though many of the charges had been dismissed.
One of Bond’s children remains with a maternal grandmother, DCF said earlier. The other was adopted by an unrelated family.
When DCF closes a case, Grossman said, several levels of review are required, including an assessment by the social worker determining whether the risk of abuse or neglect of a child has been alleviated. That assessment must then be signed off by a supervisor or manager.
It is unclear whether officials designated Bond’s case as high or low risk.
Baker, during his appearance Sunday in South Boston, said the Department of Children and Families would move swiftly to implement a series of recommendations made after a 7-year-old Hardwick boy lapsed into a coma in mid-July after he was beaten and starved while monitored by at least a dozen DCF workers. Those recommendations include updating the agency’s risk assessment and intake systems, which Baker called a “number one priority.”
For nearly three months after Bella’s body was discovered in a trash bag on June 25, investigators followed up on hundreds of leads, searching in Mexico, India, Puerto Rico, Trinidad, and Peru, and launched an extensive public information campaign with a digital approximation of what she looked like plastered on billboards.
Police Commissioner William B. Evans said Sunday that the case affected a lot of people.
“It’s a sad case,” Evans said. “Hopefully it’s a wake-up call to everyone that we have to pay attention to who our neighbors are and look out for one another.”
Evans said the case broke when one of the department’s detectives received a tip and passed the information to the State Police.
“I think given the lack of leads, any lead was important and when we turned it over to the State Police . . . thank God it panned out,” Evans said. “We were finally able to get a name to that poor little baby.”
On Sunday, residents on Maxwell Street in Dorchester, where Bella lived in a six-apartment building with her mother, trickled over to the now-vacant unit where a security officer stood guard as neighbors and strangers left toys in remembrance of the little girl.
Rosemelie Exume, 85, who lives two houses down, stood on her porch staring at the memorial with tears in her eyes.
“This is very bad,” she said. “So very bad.”
Exume said she had seen the news, but never expected the tragedy was so close to home.
“Every day I cry,” she said. “How could I not have known? What could I have done to help her?”
Exume said another neighbor noticed a resemblance between the Baby Doe portrait and Bella, but never thought it was actually her.
Another neighbor, who asked to only be identified by her first name Julia, said Bella used to play with her nieces and nephews.
“She was a sweet, beautiful baby, always laughing,” she said.
Julia said she noticed that the girl’s mother had changed earlier this summer. Instead of walking hand-in-hand down Maxwell Street with her daughter, Julia said, Bond strolled slowly with her head down, dressed in black.
Julia said she wondered where Bella was, and when she asked, Bond replied with a quick “she’s fine” before continuing down the block. She didn’t stop and chat like she used to, Julia said.
“It must’ve already happened by then,” Julia said. “It makes me sick.”
Jan Ransom can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Jan_Ransom. Jacqueline Tempera can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on twitter @jacktemp. Travis Andersen can be reached email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe. Aneri Pattani contributed to this report.