By Scott Malone
BOSTON (Reuters) - A jury on Monday found a Boston man guilty of second-degree murder in the 2015 killing of a Massachusetts toddler, whose body washed up on a beach and prompted a months-long search for the identity of "Baby Doe."
Michael McCarthy, 37, escaped conviction on the more serious charge of first-degree murder for allegedly punching 2-1/2-year-old Bella Bond to death in the apartment he shared with his former girlfriend, Rachelle Bond, and dumping her plastic-wrapped body in Massachusetts Bay.
Defense attorney Jonathan Shapiro had tried to undercut Bond's testimony during the trial, which included describing seeing McCarthy punch the child so hard that her body bounced off a bed. He noted that Bond, 41, had repeatedly lied about her daughter's whereabouts in the weeks following her death.
She had told some friends that she had been taken by the state, according to witness testimony.
Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley told reporters after the verdict was read that Bond's testimony was truthful.
"Rachelle Bond's testimony was clearly valuable and credible because it was corroborated by forensic evidence that she did not know we would obtain," Conley said, citing cell phone records that corroborated her testimony about the couple's whereabouts in the days following her death.
He dismissed Shapiro's statement to the jury that Bond had killed her child.
"I don't think there was a shred of evidence that she was the real killer," Conley said.
McCarthy did not testify during his trial. He faces a sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole after 15 years. Had he been found guilty of first-degree murder as prosecutors had sought, parole would not have been an option.
Shapiro vowed to appeal the verdict, calling it "a travesty of justice." He had earlier expressed outrage at the judge's instructions to the jury that they did not need to conclude that McCarthy had acted entirely on his own.
Bond pleaded guilty in February to being an accessory to murder after the fact and testified under a plea deal.
A woman walking her dog discovered the child's decomposing remains in a plastic bag on a beach in June 2015. Investigators trying to identify the child launched a billboard campaign featuring an artist's depiction of what she might have looked like in life with the headline "Did you know me? Please ... tell the police my name."
(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Tom Brown)