BOSTON (CBS) – Michael McCarthy is five years into a life sentence. The 40-year-old was convicted of killing Bella Bond, his then girlfriend’s daughter, but McCarthy, who is preparing for an appeal hearing next week, tells the I-Team he didn’t kill her.

“Never. Never. I never harmed a hair on her head, you know she was a beautiful happy healthy little girl,” McCarthy said. “It wasn’t a murder. Because there was no evidence that it was a murder.”

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The toddler’s body, at the time unidentified, washed up in a trash bag on Winthrop’s Deer Island in June of 2015. Officials called her “Baby Doe.”

Hoping to identify her, prosecutors released a composite sketch. Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley said the body had no obvious signs of trauma and investigators were looking into the possibility of a poisoning. Pleading for the public’s help, Conley said, “If there was an accident, or worse – if there was mischief that resulted in a criminal act clear your conscience, step forward and make yourself known, because nobody deserves that kind of ending.”

Michael McCarthy (WBZ-TV)

Months later, a tip led police to two-year-old Bella’s mother Rachelle Bond and McCarthy. Both admitted substance abusers were charged with her murder. Prosecutors focused in on McCarthy’s interest in the occult.

“They were saying that I essentially believed that Bella Bond was inhabited by demons,” McCarthy told WBZ. “They needed to put this on somebody.”

With no other witnesses, prosecutors offered Rachelle Bond a plea deal in exchange for less than three years in prison and probation she would testify against McCarthy.

Bella Bond. (Photo credit: Facebook photo)

Bond told the jury the night Bella died McCarthy “punched her in the stomach” and told her “it was her time to die she was a demon.”

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But the medical examiner said the way Bond described how Bella died was not impossible but “it’s unlikely.”

As for the cause of death, the medical examiner was unable to come to a conclusion, saying she could have died from strangulation or a blow that led to a heart attack. McCarthy maintains he didn’t hurt Bella.

Bond also told police Bella’s body was in the refrigerator and that she and McCarthy later dumped her in Boston Harbor. McCarthy told the I-Team, “The State Police swept the refrigerator and said there was never a body in the refrigerator and they swept my car and said there was never a body in his vehicle either.”

Rachelle Bond in court June 7, 2017. (WBZ-TV)

As for how her body ended up in the water, McCarthy wouldn’t talk about that. Telling WBZ, “my attorney doesn’t think it is a good idea to get into anything specific like that.”

McCarthy believes Bella may have died after accidently taking her mother’s prescription medication, “The pills are pink in color and Bella had a pink fluid in her stomach.”

McCarthy was found guilty of second-degree murder. He is now appealing his conviction and life sentence.

“Bella didn’t get justice first off, because they never even determined what happened to her and I definitely didn’t kill her,” McCarthy said. “Rachelle Bond clearly didn’t receive justice because she committed perjury in a capital murder trial and she’s out walking around and I’m in prison for a murder I didn’t commit, for a murder that didn’t even happen.”

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A hearing on McCarthy’s appeal is scheduled for next week. We attempted to reach Rachelle Bond but did not hear back. In a statement, the Suffolk County District Attorney said the conviction should stand and that the sentence is appropriate for the harm inflicted on a beautiful helpless child.

Cheryl Fiandaca