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Canuck
05-11-2012, 09:09 PM
Christie Blatchford: Journey to Michael Rafferty guilty verdict went through a sewer of evidence

Christie Blatchford May 11, 2012 – 10:20 PM ET | Last Updated: May 11, 2012 10:52 PM ET

Dave Chidley/The Canadian Press

Michael Rafferty is guilty of first-degree murder, kidnapping and sexual assault causing bodily harm in the slaying of Victoria (Tori) Stafford.

The verdicts came Friday night after about nine hours of deliberation.

As the jury foreman, one of only three men on the jury, stood and said “Guilty” for the first of three times, the 31-year-old Rafferty closed his eyes.

He remained standing even after the foreman finished, taking his seat only after his lawyer motioned to him.

It was his only visible reaction, in stark contrast to the murmurs of relief and tears in the courtroom.

The little girl’s mother, Tara McDonald, sobbed uncontrollably while a large group of her paternal relatives, and father Rodney Stafford, held hands.

It was the final chapter of the story that could be called The Dog That Wasn’t There.

The line comes from Terri-Lynne McClintic’s description of how she lured the sunny little blond to Rafferty’s waiting car, parked up the street from her school, and soon after to her death.

Eight-year-old Tori Stafford was taken from her school and killed on April 8, 2009.

“There was a conversation about dogs,” McClintic told prosecutor Kevin Gowdey on her first day of testimony.

“I told her I had a Shih Tzu.

“She told me she had one too. I asked her if she wanted to see mine, and she said yeah, and that’s how she ended up coming back to the vehicle. … I opened the back door to show her the dog that wasn’t there.”

If it was an object lesson in the trusting nature of children — as Rafferty told McClintic shortly beforehand, promising it would be easy as it was, “Talk about dogs or candy” or something — it was also the beginning of a dive into the sewer of evidence that was to come.

Rodney Stafford, father of slain Victoria Stafford holds a photo of his daughter as celebrates with his mother Doreen Graichen after Michael Rafferty was found guilty on all three charges at the murder trial in London, Ontario, Friday, May 11, 2012. Rafferty, 31, silently closed his eyes but showed no other visible signs of emotion as jurors also declared him guilty of kidnapping and sexual assault causing bodily harm in the little girl's April 2009 death — a verdict Superior Court Judge Thomas Heeney called "just and amply supported by the evidence."

Over the 10 weeks of trial, the nine women and three men of the jury learned about the little girl herself (the best description from her mom, Ms. McDonald, went like this: “She’d be outside in a dress, picking up worms and bugs, getting dirty and jumping in puddles”), the last terrible hours of her life and the utter moral depravity of her two abductors.

From autopsy slides that showed an axe like the one McClintic had bought at a Guelph Home Depot fitting neatly into a hole on Tori’s reconstructed skull to a first-hand visit to the lovely rural lane south of Mount Forest that became a killing ground to testimony from a succession of women who met Rafferty on an online dating site and bedded him shortly thereafter, the jurors were plunged into the killers’ world.

Terri-Lynne McClintic

For sheer horror, nothing could match McClintic’s evidence — in person over six days at court and on video in an excerpt from her tearful confession on May 24 — of her own betrayal of the little girl.

It was Tori who grabbed onto her hand as they crossed Fyfe Street in Woodstock, the town of 35,000 about 50 kilometres east of London where the little girl lived.

She grabbed her hand again just a few hours later, as McClintic led her to the front of Rafferty’s car, mid-rape, so she could pee.

She was so strong, McClintic sobbed in her confession. “She wasn’t afraid of me or anything,” she said.

Even she, the predictable product of a violent and wretched childhood, could marvel at that, at how the eight-year-old she had tricked and already had so grievously failed still pinned her hopes on her.

McClintic tried to stay in the car, holding onto the little girl’s hand as Rafferty resumed the sexual assault, she said, but she couldn’t bear it, and once again turned her back on the child and walked away.

“I could hear her calling my name,” she said, weeping. “ ‘T, T, please don’t let him do it again!’”

She kept walking.

Rafferty was in possession of substantial amounts of child pornography, including “how-to instructions for child sexual assault.”

Prosecutors had evidence that at least 12 women were willing to testify to Rafferty’s penchant for chocking his sexual partners

It is unclear from the jurors’ verdicts what they concluded about who actually killed the little girl, McClintic as she began to claim earlier this year in a shocking recantation, or Rafferty, as she maintained for almost three years.

But, as prosecutors said, it didn’t matter who the jurors saw as the actual murderer — who was the principal, who the party to the crime — if they found the two had acted together, as a team, the one helping the other.

They knew little about Rafferty, who didn’t take the witness stand in his own defence. His lawyer, Dirk Derstine, called only one witness. And virtually all of the evidence about Rafferty that police found on his laptop — snuff films, child pornography, Google searches for “real underage rape,” various other deviant sexual interests such as necrophilia, incest and the like — was ruled inadmissible by Ontario Superior Court Judge Thomas Heeney.

Only three people were at that isolated lane off a farmer’s field that April day three years ago, and know the truth of what happened.

One ended up with 16 fractured ribs, a lacerated liver and a bashed-in head and face, her body put in garbage bags and tossed — “like garbage” as McClintic said through tears — onto the farmer’s rock pile.

Victoria Stafford would not be found for 103 days.

One, McClintic, confessed, and for all her deep flaws, had at least a brief relapse of humanity — helping the police look for the little girl until, at last, in large part because of the map she’d drawn, they found her.

Two years ago, on April 30, 2010, she pleaded guilty to first-degree murder for her role in Tori’s death. She is now serving a life sentence. Despite her reluctance, she testified here and in harsh cross-examination by Mr. Derstine, saw her darkest and most shameful secrets revealed.

The third person was Michael Rafferty, who didn’t testify, who was alternately sulky and whiny in his police statement and who certainly never confessed.

The only time estimates are from McClintic, who said that by the time Rafferty pulled his Honda Civic onto that country lane, it was about roughly 6 p.m. The sun set about 6:59 that night.

When they pulled out of the lane, McClintic said, leaving behind the little tomboy in her rocky grave, it wasn’t completely dark.

That period, the jurors heard later from a police witness, is called “civil twilight,” when there is still a hint of lightness in the darkening sky, before the day, rather like hope, completely disappears.

Redhouse
05-11-2012, 10:09 PM
Thank you, jurors.

Prairie Dog
05-12-2012, 12:36 AM
Bring back Mr. Ellis.

Rory McCanuck
05-12-2012, 08:41 AM
Too bad he will never see "General Population."
I imagine a whole bunch of cons would have a go.....

normmus
05-12-2012, 10:04 AM
Here's hoping he never makes it out of prison.

jonanddad
05-12-2012, 06:06 PM
Wow. Glad hes in jail now

Forbes/Hutton
05-12-2012, 06:38 PM
This is a country of plenty.

We can't spare a couple of feet of rope?

Edward Teach
05-13-2012, 10:50 AM
Naw...let him out so we can play "Running Man".
Oh and the stalkers aren't allowed firearms or edged weapons.

RobSmith
05-13-2012, 11:01 AM
Betcha the guards will just go for a bit of an unscheduled coffee break, and the perp will be found hanging in his cell upon their return. Sure they'll catch flak for it, but it'll blow over in a few days.