Bella Bond was found dead in a plastic bag on June 25

By Tara Fowler
September 18, 2015 05:00 PM
Courtesy Facebook

You couldn’t help but grin when Bella Bond was around.

A toddler with abundant energy, Bella “always played with the other kids,” Dominiquea Price tells PEOPLE. “She always laughed and always smiled. She was a loving child. A happy baby.”

She would’ve been 3 years old in August. But Bella’s life was cut tragically short earlier this summer, after which her body was found in a plastic bag along a shoreline near Boston.

For months, authorities struggled to identify her. Known only as “Baby Doe,” they released a computer-generated image of her that was shared on Facebook more than 50 million times in July. Still, no one came forward.

A break in the case finally came on Friday when police arrested Bella’s mom, Rachelle Bond, and Bond’s boyfriend, Michael McCarthy, in connection with the girl’s death. Bond’s friends were shocked. “Bella was her everything,” says friend Jarilyn Acevedo. “She took good care of her.”

Bond herself couldn’t say enough kind things about her daughter. On her Facebook page, she posts picture after picture of the little girl. In one post from Sept. 2014, Bond writes, “Love her to death. I am on top of the world because of her. My life is complete again and worth living.” In another, dated just three days before Bella’s second birthday, she gushes, “My love, my soul, my life. My heart beats because she’s in my world.”

Bella’s biological father was never a part of her life, so the toddler was with her mom all the time – even while Bond lived in the Mary Eliza Mahoney House Family Shelter in Roxbury, Massachusetts. “She was always cooking for her. That girl was well-fed,” says Price, who met Bond and baby Bella in the shelter, with a laugh. “That’s why her cheeks were so chubby.”

Adds Acevedo, who also met mom and daughter at the shelter: “I was really close with that little girl. She was always happy. She’s just so beautiful and she was such a sweet little girl.”

Says another friend who wished to remain anonymous: “Bella was perfect and Rachelle gave her daughter a lot of love.”

Police have not yet released details on the cause or manner of Bella’s death. McCarthy will be charged with murder and Bond will be charged as an accessory after the fact, Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley said in a press conference Friday.

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