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The mother of all leniency

Rachelle Bond will be transferred Friday from jail to an inpatient program to treat psychiatric and substance abuse issues.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

So it came down to this: 667 days in jail and $155 in court fees that she has no way of paying.

That’s the price Rachelle Bond will have to pay for her role in the murder of her 2-year-old daughter, Bella.

She left Courtroom 906 at Suffolk Superior Court 10 minutes after she entered it for her sentencing Wednesday, without a word. On Friday, she’ll be transferred from jail to an inpatient program to treat psychiatric and substance abuse issues for who knows how long.

Rachelle Bond’s sentence didn’t seem lenient so much as — like the horrific circumstances in which Bella died and was disposed of — impossible to fathom.


Could Rachelle Bond’s irresponsibility, her complicity in dumping her daughter’s body in Boston Harbor like so much trash, her willingness to cash checks meant for her secretly dead daughter and mainline the proceeds into her arm, her decision to stay with the monster who murdered Bella instead of alerting the authorities, justify such a light sentence?

The truth, as this sad case comes to a sad conclusion, is that what Rachelle Bond deserved was never really considered. The criminal justice system just isn’t built to properly deliberate and decide such matters when things get as morally and forensically damaged as what happened to poor little Bella Bond.

Two years ago, as Bella’s weighted-down body floated from somewhere near the Black Falcon terminal to where it was found on the shore of Deer Island, so much of the evidence washed away.

By the time State Police detectives assigned to Suffolk District Attorney Dan Conley’s office were able to interview Rachelle Bond, three months after Bella was murdered, it had come down to a he-said-she-said case. The detectives and prosecutors determined that it was Rachelle Bond’s live-in boyfriend, Michael McCarthy, who killed the little girl, and that it was Bond who went along with the conspiracy to hide Bella’s death from the outside world.


Without Rachelle Bond, prosecutors had no case. Heroin, which clouded the couple’s view not just of right and wrong but of basic decency, was surely a coconspirator. But heroin is not subject to prosecution.

To those many people who view Rachelle Bond as equally guilty and say prosecutors should have tried her right along with McCarthy, Conley shook his head. He winced almost imperceptibly when a reporter suggested his office had made a deal with the devil.

“We don’t characterize our witnesses like that,” Conley said.

On Tuesday night, Bond’s lawyer, Janice Bassil, went shopping at a Target to provide Bond with clothes to wear at the treatment facility she will arrive at on Friday.

“She has nothing,” Bassil told me, shortly before Judge Janet Sanders took to the bench and formally approved a sentence that includes mandatory treatment for psychiatric and substance abuse issues and two years of probation. “She really doesn’t have her family. She doesn’t have friends.”

The contents of the Dorchester apartment where Rachelle Bond lived and where her daughter died were put in storage shortly after Bond and McCarthy were arrested in September 2015. But the storage fees weren’t paid, so the storage company auctioned off Rachelle Bond’s belongings.

Bassil was able to rescue a few things, including a pair of shiny pink boots that Rachelle Bond had bought for Bella. Bassil said that, to her, those shiny pink boots captured the humanity of Rachelle Bond that so few seem prepared to acknowledge, that she cared deeply for her daughter.


I think there are few members of the general public who would share Bassil’s view. There are no more sympathetic figures than mothers who lose their children. But Rachelle Bond is not a sympathetic figure. She certainly didn’t come across as sympathetic when she testified and essentially won her own freedom.

Heroin and mental instability left her adrift in life. She sold her body to buy her drugs. She sold something else to win her freedom. Testimony during the trial revealed that she had five children by different men, Bella being the last, conceived in a tent during the Occupy Boston protest, when Bond was homeless. Her first two children were removed by the state because of neglect. A pair of twins died in infancy. And then there was Bella.

Bassil seemed surprised when she was asked whether Rachelle Bond still wanted to have a family. Bassil said Bond was focusing on getting healthy. Still, Bond is 41 and there is no sentence that could preclude her from having more children.

Bassil said Bond demonstrated how sincere she is about staying clean and moving forward when she turned down her freedom two weeks ago because the rehab program that initially accepted her had second thoughts.

“She could have walked out of here two weeks ago,” Bassil said. “She knows she needs help.”


Other detainees at the South Bay jail were initially cruel to Bond, viewing her just as guilty as McCarthy. But Bassil said most of them changed their minds as they got to know Bond.

Bond is unaware that so many people view her not with sympathy but antipathy.

“She hasn’t seen social media,” Bassil said. “She hasn’t had a phone.”

But Bond was previously a big consumer of social media and what happens when, inevitably, she Googles herself or plugs her name into Twitter or Facebook?

I feel slightly ashamed that I didn’t have more sympathy for Rachelle Bond. She has had a lousy life. But, like everybody else, I saw the photos of Bella. I heard the evidence and couldn’t believe any human being, much less a child’s mother, could do the things she did, no matter how lost to heroin she was.

Everybody deserves a second chance. It’s hard to keep track of how many chances Rachelle Bond has had. But she’s got one more. And that’s one more than her daughter Bella ever got.

As the formalities ended in court, Bassil and Kara Hayes, a victim-and-witness advocate for the DA’s office, gathered Rachelle Bond’s few earthly possessions into two Star Market shopping bags.

Rachelle Bond left the courtroom looking at no one, because there was no one to look for.

Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at cullen@globe.com.