BOSTON (CBS) — During passionate closing arguments in the trial of the man accused of murdering two-year-old Bella Bond, the defense and prosecution gave two very different views of the child’s mother–the star witness around whose testimony the prosecution’s case revolved.
With closings now finished, it is up to jurors decide between charging McCarthy with first-degree murder, second-degree murder, or involuntary manslaughter–or to find him not guilty of any of those crimes.
The manslaughter charge was added Monday by Judge Janet Sanders. If McCarthy is convicted of that charge, he could face up to 20 years in prison.
Prosecutors say McCarthy struck and killed Bella because he believed she was a “demon.” The defense alleges it was Rachelle who harbored bizarre beliefs about demons and killed her daughter.
Defense attorney Jonathan Shapiro reminded jurors that there wasn’t any physical evidence tying McCarthy to the murder–just the story Rachelle told on the stand.
“His DNA was not found,” said Shapiro. “His fingerprints were not found. His hair was not found. Each of the forensic scientists who testified agreed that he or she did not find any link between Mr. McCarthy and this crime. Nothing, nothing, nothing.”
Throughout his closing, which lasted over an hour, he attempted to poke holes in Rachelle’s story.
“Can you believe anything this woman says?” he asked jurors.
But prosecutor David Deakin said evidence was shown throughout the trial that Rachelle was a “good mother”–and that, though she wasn’t perfect, she didn’t kill the girl.
He began his remarks showing photos of a smiling Bella Bond–and said that without McCarthy and his heroin, there wouldn’t have been a murder.
“The defendant, Michael McCarthy, brought with him to 115 Maxwell Street a dark cloud, a cloud of trouble,” he told the court.
Deakin said the how and why might never be known, but that McCarthy went into Bella’s room one night and killed her.
“Whether he went in there believing she was a demon, thereby showing her opinion of her, or whether instead as someone who was interested … in the occult and demonology and satanism, he came up with that as an excuse to tell Rachelle Bond in a desperate hope that she would believe it and that she would forgive or accept what he had done–or at a minimum, not go to the authorities right away,” he said.
He said that, though there was no physical evidence implicating McCarthy, he left “figurative symbolic fingerprints” in the dumping of the little girl’s body, and held up the weights prosecutors said McCarthy used to toss her body into Boston Harbor.
“Innocent people don’t dump bodies,” Deakin said.
It was in sharp contrast to Shapiro’s account.
“In the end, the monster came for that little girl, and it was her mother,” the defense attorney said.
He went first Tuesday morning, claiming Rachelle spun a “changing web of lies”–first blaming child services and then McCarthy for the girl not being home when Bella’s biological father, Joe Amoroso, came looking for her.
The defense attorney recalled the events described in testimony weeks ago, when Rachelle allegedly told McCarthy’s childhood friend, Michael Sprinsky, that McCarthy had killed Bella.
Shapiro said she told that story while McCarthy was in the hospital, so that he wouldn’t be able to defend himself. He pointed to a selfie Rachelle took the day she told Sprinsky, which he said showed she was faking being upset.
Rachelle said in her testimony that McCarthy had been keeping her hostage, but Shapiro said she made this story up to explain why she didn’t go to the police.
He said she had lived a hard life as a prostitute and drug user, and wasn’t afraid of McCarthy.
Shapiro mentioned how McCarthy wrote about Bella in the present tense in texts–because, Shapiro said, he believed Bella was still alive in DCF custody as Rachelle told him.
“Michael McCarthy loved Bella,” Shapiro told the court.
Deakin, though, said McCarthy’s texts to Rachelle were “aggressive, accusatory, and controlling,” and recalled the point where McCarthy told Rachelle not to mention during a housing court meeting that she had a daughter, in case that would get the attention of the Department of Children and Families.
While Shapiro was surprised a mother could forget the date and time her daughter was killed, Deakin chalked Rachelle’s clouded memory up to drug use and having experienced the murder of her child.
The two sides also drew completely opposite conclusions from the taped police interview between McCarthy and State PoliceTrooper Joel Balducci that was heard in court last week.
Shapiro said the interview proved McCarthy’s innocence, because he told Trooper Balducci he didn’t know Bella was dead. Deakin countered in his closing, however, that that interview showed his guilt.
“He forgot to act surprised” about Bella’s death, Deakin said. “Like he cared.”
Shapiro criticized the “rush to judgement” in charging McCarthy with murder and only adding Rachelle to the case as an accessory, and criticized the deal prosecutors made with her.
“The prosecution makes a deal with the devil–the only devil in this case–to let Rachelle walk out of jail when you return a verdict in this case,” he said, addressing the jury. “Frankly, that disgusts me.”
But Deakin told jurors that deal should not undermine her testimony.
“Michael McCarthy is innocent,” Shapiro said at the end of his closing. “The real person who should be on trial here is Rachelle Bond.”
“If you find him not guilty, he will be getting away with murder,” Deaking said of McCarthy in his closing.
Before Judge Sanders instructed the jury, she and Shapiro had a heated exchange over the details of those instructions.
Over the last three weeks, the jury of eight men and four women heard about Bella’s short and tragic life–and heard both sides’ accounts of how the little girl ended up dead, her body washed ashore on a Deer Island beach in the summer of 2015.
The defense rested their case on Monday, after McCarthy declined his right to testify.
Those who testified in the trial were not able to sit in the gallery during proceedings for the last few weeks–but with testimony over, many of them were in court for the closing arguments Tuesday. Sprinsky, who helped police crack the case, sat in the front row.
During the course of the trial, 169 pieces of evidence were introduced, and 34 witnesses testified.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Carl Stevens reports