Michael McCarthy, 35, is charged with murder in the death of Bella Bond

By Tara Fowler
Updated September 21, 2015 04:20 PM
Credit: AP

Michael McCarthy, the man accused of killing 2½-year-old Bella Bond, struggled with heroin use and spiraled downward after his mother’s death, a former neighbor tells PEOPLE.

McCarthy, 35, is charged with murder in the death of Bella, who was long known as “Baby Doe” after her unidentified body was discovered in a plastic bag in June along a shoreline near Boston. The little girl’s mother, Rachelle Bond, is charged as an accessory after the fact.

“He was a kid that had troubles,” the neighbor, who wished to remain anonymous, says of McCarthy, adding that he battled a heroin addiction and lived with his mother “off and on.”

“There were a lot of comings and goings,” the neighbor recalls.

Though the mother and son’s relationship was rocky – McCarthy’s mother told authorities that she once refused to let her son into the house because “he was on drugs,” according to a police report obtained by WCVB – McCarthy depended on his mother and, when she passed away two years ago, he was at a loss. He spiraled downward after her death, the neighbor says, his drug use becoming worse than ever before.

“She spent her whole life trying to stabilize him, trying to keep him out of trouble,” another neighbor told The Boston Herald. “When she died, I just saw him go downhill.”

A Bad Influence

Bella’s body was found on June 25, after McCarthy allegedly dumped her corpse in Boston Harbor, Assistant District Attorney David Deakin said during the couple’s arraignment at Dorchester District Court on Monday. For months, authorities struggled to identify the little girl, known only as “Baby Doe,” before a break in the case finally came last week.

It’s unclear when exactly Bond and McCarthy met, but friends tell PEOPLE that he was a bad influence on the 40-year-old mom, who’d struggled with drug abuse in the past herself. “When he came about, I feel like she got worse with the drugs,” Dominiquea Price says.

“She was clean [before she met McCarthy],” insists another friend, Bonnie Thibodeau. “She’d gotten clean for Bella.”

Jeremy Marriner, who went to elementary school with Bond and let her stay with him while she was homeless, says she wasn’t known to make the best decisions when it came to her romantic relationships.

“A lot of her ex-boyfriends were abusive,” he says, adding that one even allegedly was “using her as an ashtray.” Marriner never met McCarthy.

But Bella was a potential bright spot in Bond’s otherwise difficult life, Marriner says. “I feel like she saw Bella like a second chance,” Marriner says. “She was really trying.”

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An Obsession with the Occult

Officials still haven’t determined a cause of death, but natural causes have been ruled out. There have, however, been reports that McCarthy allegedly punched Bella in the moments before she died. It’s unclear whether that punch killed her.

Bond told investigators that Bella died on an evening in late May after she became “unruly” and refused to go to sleep, Deakin said Monday.

According to Bond, McCarthy told Bond not to worry about Bella, that he would calm her down. Bella’s screams eventually stopped, so Bond went to check on her daughter. Deakin said that Bond entered the room to find McCarthy standing over Bella with her hand near her abdomen, and when she looked at Bella, her head appeared to be swollen and her face was gray.

“She knew at that moment that her daughter was dead,” Deakin said.

McCarthy was allegedly unconcerned that he’d killed the toddler. “She was a demon anyway, it was her time to die,” he purportedly told Bond.

A friend of McCarthy’s told police that he’d developed an obsession with the occult and claimed to be able to see demons and exorcise them, Deakin said. That friend said that McCarthy told him that he believed Bella to be possessed.

During a search warrant obtained for their home, cops found many books on demons and demonology.

McCarthy is being held without bail, while Bond’s bail is set at $1 million. Neither has entered a plea to the charges against them as of yet.

McCarthy’s lawyer, Jonathan Shapiro, did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

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