Rachelle Bond loved her little girl, her friends tell PEOPLE exclusively

By Tara Fowler
Updated September 18, 2015 03:30 PM
Credit: Courtesy Facebook

Rachelle Bond, the Massachusetts mother who has been arrested in connection with her daughter Bella’s death, allegedly struggled with drug use and had been arrested previously, friends tell PEOPLE exclusively.

Bella was found dead in a plastic bag along a shoreline near Boston on June 25. For months, authorities struggled to identify the little girl, who they nicknamed “Baby Doe.” But a break in the case finally came on Friday after police executed a search warrant at a Boston home the night before, taking Bond and her boyfriend, Michael McCarthy, in for questioning in connection with the girl’s death. Both are now under arrest.

Those who know Bond are shocked by the news. “She was crazy about her daughter,” her friend Janely Acosta tells PEOPLE. “I can’t believe she would do something to her child.”

Acosta met Bond in the Mary Eliza Mahoney House Family Shelter when Bella was just an infant. “I’ve known Bella since she was a little baby,” says Janely. “To find out that [Baby Doe] was Bella, it just breaks my heart.”

Adds another friend, Jarilyn Acevedo, who also met Bond at the shelter: “Bella was her everything. She took good care of her. Bella was always with her mom. That’s what shocked me so much. She seems like she was a good mother.”

However, both women say that Bond had troubles. She allegedly struggled with drug addiction and at one point the Department of Children & Families even got involved. “She was briefly involved with DCF, but the case was closed in 2013,” Gov. Charlie Baker said of Bond on Friday.

Friends say Bond has two other children, neither of whom lived with her. “I know she was trying to be better for the child that she does have,” says Acosta.

Adds friend Jeremy Marriner, Bond’s friend since elementary school, “I feel like she saw Bella like a second chance.”

But somewhere, something went wrong. Bond had all but disappeared from her friends’ lives of late. “I saw her back in April, walking across the street and holding Bella’s hand. She used to be healthy, but she got really skinny,” says Acosta. “I could tell Rachelle was on something.”

“She’s a little crazy,” adds Acevedo, who says she last saw Bond about a year ago. “She was probably using drugs. She looked like she was under the influence of something,” she recalls. “She was acting kind of weird.”

Acevedo says she tried to check on Bond to see how she was doing, but she never answered. “She disappeared from everywhere,” Acevedo says. “I would text her and she would never text me back.”

“Rachelle just stopped picking up the phone,” adds Acosta.

One friend says she heard from Bond after Bella had disappeared. “She had just called me in August to wish me a happy birthday,” says Kammica Ellison, who met Bond in the shelter as well. “We chitchatted for a little bit. She would always say, ‘Oh we should have play dates.’ ”

Overall, Ellison agrees that Bond was a good mother, though like any parent, she would sometimes become exasperated with her little girl. “She would just get a little frustrated with her at times,” Ellison says. “But I’ve never seen her hit her or anything like that. She loved her.”

But Bond’s alleged drug use had gotten out of hand, particularly since she’d met McCarthy, says another friend from the shelter, Dominiquea Price. “When he came about, I feel like she got worse with the drugs,” Price says. It was during this period when Bond started distancing herself from her friends.

Adds Price: “She looks horrible [now]. She never used to look like that. When she was in the shelter, she had meat on her bones.”

But if Bond did have something to do with Bella’s death, Price doesn’t think she meant to hurt her daughter. “I don’t think anything like murder happened to her. I don’t see her abusing Bella,” she says. “That’s not Rachelle.”

Price admits that when she saw the sketch of Baby Doe, she felt a twinge of recognition. “I thought, ‘That little girl looks so familiar.’ ” But she never said anything because she couldn’t believe Bond would let something happen to her daughter. “I was like, there’s no way Bella’s the little girl because her mother took care of her.”

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