This is what haunts me. That Bella Bond’s horrific murder was not a single act of violence, an aberration in an up-to-then perfect, storybook life. But that this little girl suffered every day.
Conceived in a drug-induced haze in an Occupy Boston tent, she never met her father. Prosecutors say she was murdered on a mattress on a cluttered floor, allegedly by her mother’s boyfriend, stuffed in a trash bag, shoved in a refrigerator, thrown into a duffel bag with a couple of weights so she wouldn’t float up, then tossed into the sea.
This is what we know about Bella Bond. And what we know is sickening.
But what we don’t know may be even worse.
There’s a video of Bella on her second birthday, shot by her drug-addled mother who can barely hold the camera. The footage is jerky and unfocused, but it shows Bella wearing a sparkly outfit, a beauty sash, a tiara, and holding a wand. She’s being led into a room by her aunt. The child looks confused. Her mother is shouting and spraying her with silly string and is loud and insistent. “Happy birthday, Bella! Come on, Bella. Come on. . . . Look what Mama did while you were sleeping. Look! Look! Look! LOOK at the table!!”
On the table are presents and there are balloons everywhere — a huge effort by the mother, right? But it is hard to watch the labored glad-handing of Rachelle Bond, a woman appearing so stoned that it’s almost like a skit, a bad skit. And there is wariness in her daughter’s eyes.
What was Bella wary of? Being screamed at? Being called a demon? Being locked in a closet again? Or being loved and doted on, but just for a while. Just for now, while the camera is running.
Who can imagine all that Bella Bond suffered?
Every adult in her life failed her. Her mother, who was supposed to protect her. Her father, who never laid eyes on her. Her mother’s heroin-addict boyfriend. A friend who lived with them who was so uncomfortable with the way Bella was treated that he actually moved out. (He told authorities that the couple locked Bella inside a closet and that it upset him to listen to her cry. But he didn’t say this until after Bella was dead.) Friends. Family. Neighbors. Everyone let her down.
The system did too, a culture that tolerates the intolerable, that allows thousands of children just like Bella to live with parents who are supposed to love them but who love the needle more. Because, God forbid, we judge anyone. Because, God forbid, we talk about right and wrong and responsibility and culpability.
Rachelle Bond has a criminal record that dates back to 1994. Prostitution, drug possession, assault and battery, receiving stolen goods. The state took away her first two children. Why on God’s earth was she allowed to leave the hospital with Bella?
One more chance, your honor. One more chance.
Last week a pregnant girl stood at the Mass. Pike’s Cambridge/Allston exit not a stone’s throw from the DoubleTree Hotel. It was 6:30 p.m., and she was holding a sign that said, “In a shelter and pregnant.” Hundreds of drivers saw her.
And saw her child’s future.
Three years ago, a friend applied to adopt a child who was in state custody. The mother had multiple children by multiple men. There were drugs in the house. Neglect. The state took the child and the mother said keep him.
Three years later, the adoption is not complete. The mother keeps changing her mind.
“One more chance, your honor. One more chance.”
Bella Bond never had even one chance. Relatives and friends saw how the child lived, saw how she was treated, saw her mother stoned, saw the boyfriend with track marks up his arms, heard Bella’s cries.
And they did nothing.
A drawing of her was all over the news for three months and they said nothing.
Last Monday, Dorchester District Court Judge Thomas Kaplanes ordered Michael McCarthy, charged with the murder of Bella Bond, held without bail, and Rachelle Bond, charged with being an accessory after the fact, held in lieu of $1 million bail.
There are so many children like Bella, innocent victims of drug addiction. Her mother had a choice. Bella, who loved trees, the color green, and dancing to country music, never did.
Beverly Beckham’s column appears every two weeks. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.