A reconstruction of the victim, 2-year-old Bella Bond, then known only as "Baby Doe," by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. The image triggered a large amount of publicity when released. (Image: National Center for Missing and Exploited Children via Wikimedia Commons)

Two years after Bella Bond’s remains were found washed up on a Boston-area beach, her mother’s boyfriend has been sentenced to prison for life.

Michael McCarthy, 37, was found guilty of second-degree murder on Monday, on the fifth day of deliberations. Barring appeals, the strictest prison sentence available to the judge appears to be the final chapter to a murder case that riveted the nation in the summer of 2015.

The resolution of the case combined traditional and novel forensic techniques to put a name to the unknown face of the child—and then bring those responsible for her death to justice.

Bond, 2, had only been known as “Baby Doe” when she was found in a trash bag on the western shore of Deer Island in Boston Harbor on June 25, 2015. She had been wearing white pants with black polka dots. Inside the bag with her decomposing body was a zebra-print blanket. She was approximately 3 1/2 feet tall and weighed about 30 pounds at her time of death. Estimates originally placed her as old as 4 years at the time of her death, cause unknown.

No clues existed beyond what was in the waterlogged bag.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children was quickly in contact with the investigators from the Massachusetts State Police.

Michael Sprinsky, far left, gets a hug from his sister Laura Sprinsky, as the guilty verdict is read of second degree murder for defendant Michael P. McCarthy at Suffolk Superior Court in Boston on Monday, June 26, 2017. McCarthy was convicted Monday of second-degree murder in the death of Bella Bond, a 2-year-old girl who became known as Baby Doe after her remains washed up on the shores of a Boston Harbor island. (Photo: Matt West/The Boston Herald via AP, Pool)


The first breakthrough was made by Christi Andrews, a forensic artist at NCMEC. Her expert hand took about four hours of airbrushing and painstaking photo manipulation through Adobe Photoshop to recreate what the girl looked like in life. She had to start completely from scratch, since the remains were severely deteriorated.

“This one was a rush request—we wanted to get it done as quickly as possible,” Andrews told Forensic Magazine shortly after the image was released. “Every case is very sad—you’re trying to bring life to this image. You get a personal rapport with the image, but above all else we want to get an accurate composite. We want people to call in.”

They called. In just a few days, thousands of tips poured in to the investigators, providing leads of who the girl may be.

Authorities, working through all the information and contacts, took months to process them all. At first, they thought it would take until the end of the summer—and a return to school or daycare—for people to realize a child was missing.

Millions eventually shared the picture of the unknown girl who was dubbed “Baby Doe” by investigators. Andrews called her discipline a “good marriage of science and art” in the interview.


But as investigators ran down every lead, they also were pulling out all the stops in forensic science to find out who Baby Doe was.

The one that helped produce a crucial break was the study of microscopic pollen spores all around us: the discipline known as “forensic palynology.”

Based off the tiny flecks of pollen on clothes and in hair, experts can determine where a person lived before they died. The Massachusetts detectives decided to try it.

Only two scientists in the United States are trained to do such exacting work: Vaughn Bryant at Texas A&M University, and his protégé Andrew Laurence, a program analyst for U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Both experts spoke with Forensic Magazine during the Baby Doe investigation.

Laurence explained how he used a gentle vacuuming process to remove the minute spores, took off a filter, and dissolved the material with a series of chemicals, leaving behind only the hardy plant matter. His resulting analysis of the spores on the clothes and blanket in the wet bag showed a unique pattern. Some 39 different types of spores including a particular mix of oaks, pines and other flora native to Massachusetts indicated the girl had lived locally in the greater Boston area.

Furthermore, two species of exotic cedars which did not grow wild in the area—but which were present at the Boston Arboretum—indicated that she lived in the nearby area.


The massive investigation involved thousands of hours, and sometimes round-the-clock work.

It broke open when Rachelle Bond, the mother, told a friend in September 2015 that her daughter Bella was dead—and that the girl had not been taken away by the state authorities as she had originally claimed. The friend looked up the “Baby Doe” story, saw the picture made by Andrews, then came forward to authorities.

Bond and McCarthy were quickly arrested, three months after the remains of the little girl were found on Deer Island. The pair blamed each other for the girl’s death, and their respective attorneys blamed the other party's belief in the occult and “demons” as a reason for the girl’s death.

Rachelle Bond, Bella’s mother, testified against her ex-boyfriend McCarthy during his trial.

She pleaded guilty to accessory to murder after the fact in February, before McCarthy went to trial. Her sentencing has reportedly been postponed until July 12, since she has found no in-treatment drug rehabilitation beds to help treat her heroin addiction. She is expected to be released on the two years’ time served, according to reports.

McCarthy’s life sentence makes him eligible for parole in 20 years, according to reports.

The Associated Press contributed to this report