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    Bella Bond’s mother pleads not guilty

    Rachelle Bond (right) consulted with her defense attorney, Janice Bassil.
    Pat Greenhouse/Globe staff/pool
    Rachelle Bond (right) consulted with her defense attorney, Janice Bassil, in court Wednesday.

    While investigators conducted a months-long, international search to identify the remains of the girl known as “Baby Doe,” her mother attended a family reunion with the accused murderer and accepted more than $1,400 in state welfare assistance for children, even though she knew her daughter was dead, prosecutors said Wednesday.

    Those details emerged Wednesday as Rachelle Bond appeared in court for the first time since a grand jury indicted her in December on charges of accessory to murder and larceny. Bond, 40, who hid her face and crouched as she entered the hearing at Suffolk Superior Court, pleaded not guilty, and was ordered held on $1 million cash bail.

    Bond had ample opportunity to report the death of Bella, whose body was discovered in a trash bag that washed up on a Deer Island beach in June, prosecutors said. Instead, they said, she willingly helped conceal the girl’s body, continued her relationship with her boyfriend and the toddler’s accused killer, Michael P. McCarthy, 35, and repeatedly lied about the child’s whereabouts.

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    Bond’s lawyer, Janice Bassil, argued that Bond was burdened by an abusive relationship and was “emotionally and psychologically controlled” by McCarthy. She asked a judge for a swift arraignment, citing the worldwide attention the case has attracted. Bassil said she was worried the prosecution’s statements could prejudice a potential jury against her client.

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    “We dispute any allegations that she assisted in the death of her child,” Bassil said after the proceedings. “She loved her daughter.”

    When she was arrested in September, Bond allegedly told police that on the night Bella was beaten to death, McCarthy volunteered to put the girl to sleep, but Bond later found him standing over her daughter’s dead body.

    Both sides in the case acknowledge that McCarthy threatened Bond with death if she told anyone about Bella’s murder. Bassil, her lawyer, said that this threat was evidence of the control McCarthy exerted over Bond, which directed her actions in the following months.

    David Deakin, the prosecutor, sought to show how Bond acted independently in helping McCarthy conceal the crime.

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    At Wednesday’s arraignment, Deakin described in detail the moment of Bella’s murder, saying that Bond had watched McCarthy “moving his arms quickly in the area of the girl’s mid-section,” and that Rachelle Bond knew her daughter was dead because her face was “gray” and swollen. Deakin said that McCarthy ordered Bond out of the room as he put the girl’s body in a refrigerator, where it remained for “two or three days,” while the couple went on a heroin binge.

    Deakin said during that time the couple devised a plan to hide the body. They placed the trash bag containing Bella’s body in a duffel bag and loaded it with weights taken from a Quincy plumbing business owned by McCarthy’s father. Deakin said the two eventually threw the bag into the water near Boston’s Seaport District.

    “The defendant knowingly and intentionally aided [McCarthy] in concealing the body,” Deakin said in court.

    In the ensuing months, including the weeks after the body was discovered and her daughter became known worldwide as “Baby Doe,” Deakin said Bond and McCarthy maintained a domestic relationship and attend social events together. At McCarthy’s family reunion in New Hampshire in July, Deakin said, other relatives told authorities that the couple acted normally.

    In September, Deakin said, Bella’s father, Joseph Amoroso, twice came to Bond’s Dorchester home to visit his child, Bond told him Bella was away with family, although she knew the girl was dead.

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    On Sept. 16, the day after Amoroso’s second visit, Bond allegedly admitted to a friend that McCarthy had killed her daughter. The friend then told his sister, and both siblings later passed along Bond’s words to police.

    Only then were officials able to match Bella’s identity to the mysterious “Baby Doe.”

    The ensuing police investigation used cadaver-sniffing dogs to identify traces of Bella’s body in the couple’s refrigerator, and dive teams found the weights and the duffel bag in waters near the Black Falcon Cruise Terminal in the Seaport District.

    On Wednesday, after the arraignment concluded, Bassil said that regardless of her client’s public actions, Bond was always under the control of McCarthy.

    Before the death of her child, Bond had a history of crime, including charges for drug possession and prostitution. According to prosecutors, Wednesday marked Bond’s 32nd arraignment in a Massachusetts courthouse. Her next court appearance is scheduled for Feb. 25.

    McCarthy is scheduled to be arraigned in Bella’s murder on Jan. 11.

    Astead W. Herndon can be reached at astead.herndon@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @AsteadWH.