Last month, Gov. Charlie Baker called for an investigation into DCF after the 2Â½-year-old girl was found dead in a plastic bag dumped in Boston Harbor this past June. For months, she was unidentified, known only as “Baby Doe,” before a break in the case came in mid-September.
Bella’s mother, Rachelle Bond, 40, and her mother’s boyfriend, Michael McCarthy, 35, have since been charged with accessory to murder and murder, respectively. Both have pleaded not guilty.
Bond had a history of previous involvement with DCF, including two investigations for neglect regarding Bella in 2012 and 2013. Both of those cases were closed, a DCF spokesperson told PEOPLE last month.
However, between 2001 and 2006, DCF terminated Bond’s parental rights for two of her other children. One now lives with the maternal grandmother, while the other was adopted by a non-related family.
With such a history of neglect, speculation has turned to whether Bella’s murder could have been prevented by DCF, had the agency been more diligent in its involvement with Bond.
While the newly released report stops short of blaming DCF for Bella’s murder, it is highly critical of the agency’s handling of the case, stating that the organization “missed opportunities to gather pertinent information from professionals providing services to the family, and they did not properly consider the little information they did receive when making their final determination of risk to Bella.”
The report goes on to say that social workers did not keep up to date information on the family. “During the 2012 and 2013 assessments, the caseworkers gathered minimal, if any, current family and personal history information from Ms. Bond. Rather, in 2012 and 2013 social workers largely copied information from a 2006 assessment report,” the report reads.
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In addition, Bond’s parenting capacity was also not properly assessed, particularly given her previous history of having parental rights terminated. “The 2012 and 2013 social workers were aware Ms. Bond lost permanent custody of her other two children, and the reasons why,” the report states.
“Ms. Bond was struggling with the same issues that had troubled her in prior years. The caseworkers did not take into consideration the totality of Ms. Bondâ€™s current and prior functioning, parenting, substance abuse and lifestyle choices, or her ability to demonstrate insight and ability for change.”
Finally, the report concludes that the decisions to close the 2012 and 2013 investigations involving Bella were “premature,” adding that DCF was lured into a “false sense of security.”
“Ms. Bond was functioning marginally well under the supervision of the family shelter and her probation officer,” the report reads. “Both provided her not only the support and resources she need to care for Bella, but were able to hold her accountable for her actions.
“Knowing Ms. Bond was under the consistent supervision of the shelter and her probation officer, it is reasonable to conclude DCF closed the 2012 and 2013 case with a false sense of security that these entities would contact DCF should there be a future concern for the safety and well-being of Bella.”
But shortly after DCF closed the 2013 case, Bond was discharged from probation and terminated the voluntary services that provided her the support she needed. No longer under anyone’s supervision, Bond began to struggle with substance abuse once again, her friends told PEOPLE after she was arrested in September.
“When [McCarthy] came about, I feel like she got worse with the drugs,” her friend Dominiquea Price said. “She looks horrible [now]. She never used to look like that.”
McCarthy allegedly believed Bella to be “possessed by demons,” a friend told police. One night, the toddler was being unruly and McCarthy allegedly offered to put her to bed. When Bond went to check on her daughter sometime later, she allegedly found McCarthy standing over Bella with his hand near her abdomen, and when she looked at Bella, her head appeared to be swollen and her face was gray.
“She knew at that moment that her daughter was dead,” Assistant District Attorney David Deakin said at the couple’s arraignment last month.
The cause and manner of Bella’s death has not yet been officially determined.