It felt right to memorialize the child with a butterfly, a small multicolored one in balloon form at the end of a stick, Judie Vankooiman said.
The tiny creatures had always been a comfort to the Winthrop resident of 30 years, especially so after her husband Kenneth (most called him “Van”) passed eight years ago. She founded a non-profit in Van’s memory a few years ago, and the balloon was a leftover from a fundraiser last weekend.
“It represents to me, life, I guess,” said Vankooiman, who wore butterfly jewelry in both her ears and around her neck.
Investigators on Friday announced they had at last identified Bella Bond, the child who had been known only as Baby Doe after she was found dead on the Deer Island shore in June. Her mother, Rachelle Bond and a man named Michael McCarthy were set to be arraigned Monday in connection with the child’s death. McCarthy has been charged with murder and Bond with accessory after the fact, investigators said.
The news spurred new reflections on the tragedy from locals who had lived with the case for more than 80 days of frustration and mourning. Many on Sunday stopped by to pay respects near a growing collection of toys and other items – a shiny red tricycle, stuffed Hello Kitty dolls, a bouquet of flowers fastened to a guardrail – arranged in three piles on a Deer Island footpath.
Standing a few feet away from one, Vankooiman paused as a bright orange butterfly flapped by in the Deer Island breeze. A sign, she said. “I just get chills. I’m speechless.”
Ray Williams of Winthrop was also there, holding his 4-year-old daughter Kenzie in his arms.
The case, and the drawn-out efforts to identify the girl have been troubling, the father of four said: the billboards he passed on his commute, the signs plastered on store windows, the stream of posts on Facebook. And after many years of family biking trips on the footpath, he said it’s been tragic to see Deer Island linked to the death of a child.
Through it all he’s been careful when talking with Kenzie about the tragedy, he said, so he was explaining the memorials to his daughter gently.
“I was telling her that it’s people’s gifts to a little girl who unfortunately is now in heaven,” he said. “People’s kindness, that they left her gifts, kind of gives you some hope.”