Commonwealth v. McCarthy

Decision Date07 June 2021
Docket NumberNo. 19-P-913,19-P-913
Citation99 Mass.App.Ct. 655,171 N.E.3d 187
CourtAppeals Court of Massachusetts

Jonathan Shapiro, Boston, (Mia Teitelbaum also present) for the defendant.

Benjamin Shorey, Assistant District Attorney, for the Commonwealth.

Present: Massing, Kinder, & Grant, JJ.


A jury convicted the defendant, Michael P. McCarthy, of murder in the second degree of two year old Bella Bond, whose body was found on a beach at Deer Island in Winthrop. On appeal, the defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to prove that it was he, rather than the victim's mother, who inflicted the fatal injuries; that the judge erred in instructing the jury that the Commonwealth did not have to exclude the possibility that someone other than the defendant was "also involved in the crime"; and that the judge erred in admitting evidence of the defendant's interest in Satanism and excluding certain evidence that would have cast the mother in a negative light. We affirm.

Background. We summarize the facts that the jury could have found, reserving certain details for our discussion of the legal issues.

The victim's mother, Rachelle Bond (Bond), had a troubled history of use of substances including heroin, cocaine, and pills. As a result, in 2000 and 2006 she lost custody of two older children to the Department of Children and Families (DCF). After that she was living "[o]n the street," supporting herself by sex work and dealing drugs, and was convicted of related crimes.

The victim was born in August 2012. During the first year of her life, she and Bond lived in shelters and DCF twice assessed Bond's ability to care for her. In 2013, they moved to an apartment in the Mattapan section of Boston. Neighbors described Bond as "[v]ery loving" and "really nice to" the victim, who was "really happy, always playing." Other than marijuana and prescribed medications, Bond was not using drugs.

Bond met the defendant when he struck up a conversation with her outside a pharmacy and persuaded her to give him some Klonopin. In February 2015, he sent Bond a text message to buy drugs, and he then came to her apartment and moved in. Bond was impressed by his intelligence, particularly on subjects involving spirituality. He told Bond that he felt negative energy around her and burned sage to eliminate an "evil presence" in her apartment. He said he could treat her abdominal pain with a reiki technique by which he held his palms above her body while she thought of the color yellow, and she believed that it worked. A romantic relationship developed between them.

Soon after the defendant moved in, his childhood friend Michael Sprinsky stayed at Bond's apartment for two weeks. During that time the victim was smiling, laughing, and playing, and the apartment was neatly kept. Sprinsky became increasingly annoyed by the defendant's frequent talk about demons and his claim that he could "rid evil spirits." The defendant had been interested in those topics since childhood, but in Sprinsky's view he had become obsessed with them.

That spring, Bond resumed using heroin, together with the defendant. When Sprinsky visited, the apartment was in disarray. Little attention was paid to the victim, and so sometimes Sprinsky prepared food for her. The defendant and Bond both told Sprinsky that the victim was "possessed," the defendant more often than Bond. They both frequently asked the victim if she was possessed by demons; if she did not agree that she was, Bond sometimes spanked her. The defendant never intervened in the spankings, and several times he locked the victim in a closet as punishment for her "demons."

In April and May 2015, the defendant's brother Joseph McCarthy (Joseph) saw the victim several times. She was a normal, happy two year old child, and was not disheveled, abused, or bruised. He last saw her in the third week of May.

In early June 2015, Bond was having difficulty putting the victim to bed. One night after Bond had tucked her in at about 11:30 P.M. , the victim ran out of her bedroom repeatedly, and each time Bond put her back to bed. When Bond and the defendant heard her playing in her room in the dark, the defendant said he would put her to sleep and went into her room, leaving the door ajar. Within five minutes, Bond followed him. The victim was lying across her bed on her back. The defendant punched the victim in the stomach so hard that she "bounced up." Bond yelled, "What the fuck did you do?" In response, the defendant just looked at Bond. The victim was not breathing and her head looked swollen and gray, so Bond tried to resuscitate her. When it did not work, Bond picked the victim up in her arms to leave. The defendant grabbed Bond by the throat with both hands and said he would kill her. The victim fell out of Bond's arms, and Bond lost consciousness.

When Bond regained consciousness, she was on the living room couch. She was too afraid of the defendant to try to flee. She passed out again and awoke sometime later when the defendant injected heroin into her neck, which she welcomed. Bond said, "What the fuck did you do? You fucking killed her." The defendant replied, "It was her time to die. She was a demon." After the defendant injected Bond with heroin, he guided her to his car.1 On the back seat were weights and a green duffel bag containing the victim's body. When Bond saw it, she screamed. The defendant hit her on the head, and she lost consciousness.

When Bond next regained consciousness, the car was in an open area next to a wharf with pylons in a body of water. The defendant, the duffel bag, and the weights were no longer in the car. The defendant came from the direction of the water, got into the car, and drove away. As they left the area, Bond recognized it as City Point in the South Boston section of Boston.

The next morning, Bond said, "[Y]ou killed my kid." The defendant replied, "[S]he was a demon, it was her time to die." Bond did not report the victim's death. She was using heroin heavily and wanted "to be taken out of reality" because the victim was dead. The defendant repeatedly threatened to kill Bond, which she believed he would do because he had killed the victim. The defendant told her that "children go missing all the time," and that no one would believe her if she reported the victim's death. For the next couple of weeks, he stayed near Bond constantly, even when she used the bathroom or took a shower. Eventually he started leaving the apartment occasionally; when he did, he loaned Bond a cell phone that did not have Internet access so he could contact her. For the next several months, they injected heroin between four and seven times a day.

On June 25, 2015, a woman walking on a beach on Deer Island found a knotted trash bag containing the dead body of a female toddler wrapped in two blankets. Autopsy revealed bruises on her arms, abdomen, and legs, and hemorrhaging on her abdomen, lower back, and shoulder blade. The medical examiner opined that she had died of either asphyxia, which might have been caused by compression of her abdomen as shown by the bruising, or a heart dysrhythmia caused by a sharp blow below the heart. She had likely been dead at least a week. Within hours, discovery of the girl's body received widespread media coverage. Because her identity was unknown, she was called "Baby Doe."

The next morning, the defendant made several calls from downtown Boston to the cell phone he had loaned to Bond. Cell site location information showed that he traveled to Mattapan at 9:47 A.M. Then he traveled to South Boston, where at 9:53 A.M. he was near the Reserved Channel.

Investigators continued to try to identify Baby Doe. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children generated a computer image approximating her appearance, which was widely publicized. The Coast Guard analyzed currents in Boston Harbor to try to determine from where her body had drifted, but without information as to how long she had been in the water, they could not locate a point of origin.

In June, Sprinsky asked the defendant and Bond where the victim was. They both replied that she was with Bond's sister; neither mentioned DCF. In July, Joseph asked in the presence of both the defendant and Bond where the victim was. One of them replied that she was with her father for the summer; neither mentioned DCF.

On July 16, 2015, Bond went to Housing Court to oppose an eviction. While she was there the defendant repeatedly sent her text messages, warning her not to claim that she needed housing for her child because the court might involve DCF. He demanded that she prove to him that she was in court. Bond told her landlord's attorney that her boyfriend was "keeping tabs on" her, and at her request the attorney wrote down his cell phone number and a notation that Bond had been in court until 2 P.M.

On September 9, 2015, the victim's father, Joseph Amoroso, showed up at Bond's apartment asking to see the victim. With the defendant monitoring the conversation, Bond told Amoroso that the victim was visiting her godparents.

At about 11:50 P.M. on September 15, 2015, Amoroso returned to Bond's apartment and knocked at the door for a long time. Eventually Bond came outside and spoke to him while the defendant watched from a window, holding a baseball bat. Bond again told Amoroso that the victim was with her godparents. When Bond came back inside, the defendant berated her for about ten minutes, in Sprinsky's presence, screaming insults while wielding the bat.

The next day, while the defendant was in the hospital being treated for an abscess, Bond tearfully told Sprinsky that the defendant had killed the victim. Sprinsky searched the Internet for information about Baby Doe and saw a photograph of a blanket that he recognized as the victim's. Sprinsky sent a text message to the defendant that stated, "She told me everyth[ing] ... she sa[id] you killed [B]ella." The...

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