Not so long ago, the two Michaels — the one who killed Bella Bond and the one who turned her killer in — shared a life of sorts.
Now, one of them could be looking at life in prison, and the other hopes his new life is just starting. But that’s not the only thing that separates them.
As kids, Michael McCarthy and Michael Sprinsky went to grade school together. In adulthood, they used heroin together, staggering around on Massachusetts Avenue. There was chaos and quarrelling over McCarthy’s sinister strangeness, but there were moments of routine friendship too: When McCarthy checked himself into the hospital with an abscess, he texted Sprinsky, asking him to feed the parking meter.
That all went out the window one day in September 2015, when Rachelle Bond told Sprinsky, 37, that McCarthy had killed her daughter. Sprinsky immediately turned to someone he trusted: his older sister Laura, who quickly called the police.
Laura Sprinsky, 41, had tried and failed for years to get her little brother clean. She cajoled him and had him committed. She cried and hoped maybe he’d land in jail again, where she could at least feel confident that he’d live another day.
“I wanted him to get arrested,” she said. “I wanted him to commit a crime.”
That changed that September day, too: Michael Sprinsky said he has been clean since the day he tipped off the police, sickened by the thought of the role heroin played in the girl’s murder. For the first time in a long while, he’s confident it will stick.
“That little girl changed his life,” Laura Sprinsky said.
But if you’re looking for something that separates the two Michaels — what sent one to prison and the other toward recovery — Laura would be a pretty good place to start.
There are more people like Sprinsky living in this city’s margins than many of us realize. Addictions like the one Sprinsky hopes he has conquered could claim the lives of 500,000 Americans in the next decade, public health experts say. That number doesn’t even count people like Bella. And it doesn’t count people like Laura — siblings and parents and friends who won’t die from heroin, but whose lives are immeasurably worse and more painful for it.
But for all their suffering, people like Laura can make a real difference. When Sprinsky was at his lowest, he knew exactly who would help him. Bobbing in a dark sea, he knew a hand was always extended within reach, eager to pull him back aboard.
Not all are so fortunate. McCarthy’s family hardly seemed eager to help in any meaningful way, offering the basement of the family’s plumbing business as a crash pad of sorts. Estranged from what family she had, Rachelle Bond had no one to turn to either. And Bella? Instead of being pulled from the sea, she was tossed in the harbor.
Michael Sprinsky said he’s frustrated that some on social media have criticized him for not doing enough, but he said there was no way he could have known that Bella was dead. He spent that summer in a heroin-drenched stupor, crashing on couches and stumbling around the city.
He’d never seen the billboards or news stories about Baby Doe, and the fabrications her mother and McCarthy made up to explain her absence, about going to live with a relative or being taken by DCF, seemed entirely plausible.
The text messages on Laura’s phone show that he reached out to her frantically as soon as he knew, and she called police to report what he’d told her within just a few minutes. The next day, he walked into the police station himself. Reporting a child’s murder to the police is a pretty low ethical bar to clear, but for once in his life he couldn’t think of anything he would have done differently.
Michael Sprinsky is hardly heroic, of course, and he’s not claiming to be.
No, Bella didn’t have a hero. She didn’t even have a Laura Sprinsky.