At first, Rachelle Bond and her boyfriend, Michael McCarthy, claimed that a relative had taken her daughter, 2-year-old Bella, from their Dorchester apartment.
But in September 2015, Bond broke down and tearfully told a childhood friend of McCarthy, Michael Sprinsky, the truth about what happened to the toddler, according to testimony Wednesday in Suffolk Superior Court.
“Please say it ain’t so, Mike,” Sprinsky later texted McCarthy in horrified disbelief. “She said you killed Bella, bro.”
In the first full day of testimony in McCarthy’s first-degree murder trial, Sprinsky, 37, spent more than three hours recounting the escalating abuse Bella endured in the spring of 2015, as her mother and McCarthy spiraled deeper into heroin use and began to rave that demons had taken over the child.
Sprinsky, who has known McCarthy since they were young boys growing up in Dorchester, was the second witness to take the stand. Prosecutors say that McCarthy, 37, beat Bella to death when she wouldn’t go to sleep and discarded her body. It was found wrapped in plastic on the shores of Deer Island on June 25, 2015.
The child’s identity and how she died were a mystery to investigators until that fall, when Sprinsky and his sister told authorities what Bond had said. On Tuesday, Assistant District Attorney David Deakin asked Sprinsky to read the text messages he exchanged with McCarthy on Sept. 16, 2015, hours after his conversation with Bond.
“How the [expletive] could you do that?” Sprinsky wrote. There was no response.
Sprinsky texted again: “Dude, what the [expletive?] Where is the kid?”
McCarthy responded with a torrent of denials.
“Wow, you listen to a cracked out hooker,” he replied. [The state Department of Children and Families] “took Bella. That’s what she told me.”
Bond, who pleaded guilty in February to being an accessory after the fact to the killing, is expected to testify against McCarthy. Sprinsky is a key witness because his testimony buttresses what Bond is expected to say under oath — that Michael McCarthy punched the child in the stomach with such force it killed her. Sprinsky’s testimony followed that of a neighbor, who described Bond as a loving, responsible mother whose demeanor changed in late 2014 after McCarthy moved in.
Prosecutors have said McCarthy was obsessed with the occult, and described the child as a demon. McCarthy’s lawyer, Jonathan Shapiro, has blamed the death on Bella’s mother, saying she was the one who had become obsessed with the occult and was convinced demons were using her daughter to get to her.
Under direct testimony, Sprinsky said McCarthy had long been obsessed with demonology and exorcism.
“He thought that he could remove demons from people’s houses,” Sprinsky said.
Sprinsky spent two weeks at Bond’s home in early 2015. At the time, the apartment on Maxwell Street was clean and neat, and Bella was a happy girl treated lovingly by her mother, he said.
But when he returned a month later, the apartment was a mess. Dishes were piled high in the sink and Bond and McCarthy were both harsh to the child. Bond would yell at Bella and spank her, while McCarthy would discipline her by locking her in a closet. Bond and McCarthy, who had both struggled with heroin use, often appeared to be high, Sprinsky said.
After a while, he stopped seeing the child and the couple told him Bond’s sister had taken her, Sprinsky said.
But on Sept. 15, Bella’s father, Joseph Amoroso, visited the couple’s home. He knocked on the door for more than 10 minutes until Bond came outside to talk to him, Sprinsky said. McCarthy peered at them through the bedroom window, holding a baseball bat.
Sprinsky said he could hear Amoroso demanding to see his child. He eventually left and when Bond came back inside, McCarthy began screaming expletives at her, Sprinsky said.
The next day, while McCarthy was at Boston Medical Center seeking treatment for an abscess, Sprinsky saw Bond near the hospital. As they walked down Massachusetts Avenue, she told him of Bella’s fate. She was crying, he said, but seemed less upset than he would have imagined.
In his texts to McCarthy, Sprinsky wrote that what Bond told him made him physically ill.
During cross-examination, McCarthy’s lawyer, Jonathan Shapiro repeatedly cited his client’s denials to Sprinsky.
“He said he didn’t know what you were talking because he didn’t know what you were talking about, did he?” Shapiro asked.
He also pressed Sprinsky on his testimony that Bond had said her daughter was possessed. She had once spanked Bella because the toddler would not say she was possessed by demons, Sprinsky said.
“I thought it was crazy,” Sprinsky testified. “They [both] thought the child was possessed by demons. They asked her constantly.”