Defense in Boston 'Baby Doe' case blames murder on mother

BOSTON, June 20 (Reuters) - A lawyer for the Boston man accused of murdering a toddler whose remains were found on a beach in 2015, sparking a months-long effort to identify "Baby Doe," told the jury hearing the case that the girl's mother, and not his client, killed the child.

A defense lawyer for Michael McCarthy, 37, in his closing argument on Tuesday, said McCarthy's former girlfriend, Rachelle Bond, was responsible for killing 2-1/2-year-old Bella Bond, whose plastic-wrapped body was dumped in Massachusetts Bay.

A woman walking her dog found the toddler's badly decomposed remains. The discovery sparked a billboard campaign by investigators, featuring an artist's rendition of how the child may have looked while alive and headlined: "Did you know me? Please ... tell the police my name."

Defense attorney Jonathan Shapiro noted that no forensic evidence tied McCarthy to the killing, with prosecutors leaning on Bond's testimony to prove that McCarthy punched the child to death. That testimony was untrue, according to Shapiro.

"The story she told was clearly made up to cover her own guilt. It was a web of lies and a changing web of lies. You know that," Shapiro said.

He said that in the three months between Bond's death in June and the couple's arrest in September 2015, the mother had lied about the child's whereabouts. Bond, 41, testified that she knew that McCarthy had dumped the body but was afraid that he would kill her if she notified authorities.

"She explained to everyone that Bella was somewhere else," Shapiro said. "She lied to everyone and there is no doubt that her lies and her cover-up were convincing."

McCarthy did not take the witness stand during his trial.

Bond pleaded guilty in February to being an accessory to murder after the fact and testified under a plea deal with prosecutors.

She recounted having witnessed McCarthy strike the child.

"I just saw her bounce off the bed. She bounced. She bounced up and came back down," Bond said at Suffolk County Superior Court. "I picked her up to get out of there and he grabbed me by the throat and he told me he'd kill me."

Both McCarthy and Bond struggled with drug addiction, the subject of lengthy testimony during the three-week trial.

Prosecutors will make their closing arguments later on Tuesday.

If found guilty of the most serious charge in the case, first-degree murder, McCarthy will be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. (Editing by Tom Brown and Bernadette Baum)