Rafferty guilty on all counts

LONDON, Ont. — A jury found Michael Rafferty guilty Friday of first degree murder and two other charges in the abduction, rape and killing of eight-year-old Victoria Stafford.

LONDON, Ont. — A jury found Michael Rafferty guilty Friday of first degree murder and two other charges in the abduction, rape and killing of eight-year-old Victoria Stafford.

The decision came after the first full day of deliberations for the jurors.

Judge Thomas Heeney commended the jury for taking its time and reaching a verdict that was “just and amply supported by the evidence.”

There was a huge sigh of relief from Tori’s family as the verdict was read.

Her mother Tara McDonald burst into tears.

Rafferty closed his eyes with no visible expression.

Rafferty, 31, had pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm and kidnapping in the April 2009 death.

After 10 weeks of at times graphic and disturbing evidence, the nine women and three men on the jury began their deliberations late Thursday after a full day of detailed instructions from Superior Court Judge Thomas Heeney.

The Crown alleged that Rafferty and girlfriend Terri-Lynne McClintic kidnapped Stafford outside her school in Woodstock, Ont., then drove to a rural area where the girl was raped and killed.

McClintic, who pleaded guilty two years ago to first-degree murder, initially told police Rafferty killed the girl, but testified at his trial that she delivered the fatal blows.

At one point during their deliberations, jurors returned to the courtroom to review the videotaped interview in which she accused Rafferty of being the killer.

No one will ever know whether the jury believed if Rafferty or McClintic wielded the hammer, whether they thought the abduction was random or targeted, or whether the sequence of events was planned all along — but the end result was the same for little Tori.

Whether Tori knew McClintic or she was lured away with talk of a dog, the eight-year-old with butterfly earrings and a skip in her step was still unwittingly led to her death on a sunny April day after school.

Whatever scenario the jury believed and whatever actually happened near Mount Forest, Ont., on April 8, 2009, Tori’s body — with 16 fractured ribs, internal injuries and a shattered skull — lay undiscovered for months wrapped in garbage bags under a pile of rocks in a desolate farmer’s field.

McClintic told the trial a horrifying story of a drug-addled couple abducting a young girl at random for the man’s sexual pleasure, then killing her with inconceivable brutality.

Rafferty used McClintic — no stranger to violence but also desperate to believe she had finally found a good man — as a pawn to do his perverse bidding, the Crown suggested.

An entirely different scenario was put forward by the defence, suggesting McClintic was completely in control that day, acting out her sickening torture fantasies with Rafferty oblivious to the truth of what was going on.

First-degree murder carries a mandatory life sentence with no chance of applying for parole for 25 years.

The 10-week trial, which began March 5, swung wildly from emotional testimony about Tori to intricate technical evidence to sensational glimpses into Rafferty’s busy social life.

Tori’s Grade 3 teacher, Jennifer Griffin-Murrell, wept as she described her happy-go-lucky student’s spunky personality and “mother hen” approach to the younger kids in the split Grade 2/3 class.

Tori spent her last day at her Woodstock, Ont., school on April 8 using a computer to research plants, sitting through a brief time out for goofing around and getting her tights wet by jumping in puddles, Griffin-Murrell said. As the dismissal bell rang at 3:25 p.m. Tori ran back to class to grab the butterfly earrings her mother had lent her that morning and walked out of Oliver Stephens Public School one minute after her classmates.

“OK, hon, we’ll see you tomorrow,” Griffin-Murrell recalled telling Tori as she walked out of school for the last time.

Several police officers also took the stand early on in the trial, though their testimony was at times no less emotional. The investigation into Tori’s disappearance and death is believed to be the largest such investigation ever in Canada and hundreds of police officers worked around the clock.

Veteran officer Det. Staff Sgt. Jim Smyth, best known for extracting a confession from sex killer Russell Williams, had to collect himself on the stand when he described discovering Tori’s remains.

When McClintic testified, her cross-examination by Rafferty’s lawyer revealed a chilling side — a “bloodthirsty” young woman who detailed endless torture fantasies in letters written to a jailhouse friend.

Rafferty himself remained largely an enigma to the jury. The only glimpse of his personality came late in the trial as 22 past girlfriends and flings took the stand, including 15 women he dated in the spring of 2009.

Charity Spitzig, a mother of four, forked over $16,835 to Rafferty from December 2008 until May 2009, when he was arrested.

Though the Crown explained — without the jury present — that they had instructed Spitzig not to say where the money came from, she nevertheless testified that she was giving Rafferty the money she made working as an escort.

The jury heard little else about Rafferty, even though police had unearthed a mountain of character evidence that was deemed inadmissible by Superior Court Judge Thomas Heeney.

Heeney concluded a police search of Rafferty’s laptop was unconstitutional, so jurors did not learn of the Google searches it contained for “real underage rape,” “nude preteen,” and other phrases suggestive of a sexual interest in children.

They also did not know police found evidence Rafferty had downloaded “substantial” amounts of child pornography and so-called “snuff” films — movies depicting actual murder — including one with a title indicating it involved a child.

There was also a lot of so-called “bad character” evidence that was kept from the jury.

A woman Rafferty met online alleged in a police report that he drugged, choked and raped her, but he was not charged.

A litany of past dates also reported he had a penchant for sexual choking. Some even complained of his “disconcerting” behaviour toward their children, the Crown said.

Just Posted

Thousands of Albertans flock to Westerner Days on last day

Central Albertans took advantage of Sunday’s sunshine and flocked to Westerner Days… Continue reading

Former Humboldt Broncos player who survived bus crash hopes for spot on team

RED DEER, Alta. — A former Humboldt Broncos player whose back was… Continue reading

Man and dog dead after early morning house fire in Lethbridge

LETHBRIDGE, Alta. — Officials say a man and a dog are dead… Continue reading

Ottawa fights planned class action against RCMP for bullying, intimidation

OTTAWA — The federal government is fighting a proposed class-action lawsuit against… Continue reading

May says Greens will work with any party that has a serious plan for the climate

OTTAWA — With three months until Canadians vote in the next federal… Continue reading

Fashion Fridays: 5 casual summer dress styles

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

A year later, ceremony commemorates victims of the Danforth shooting

TORONTO — The names of the two people killed in a shooting… Continue reading

Relief in sight for southeastern Canada following weekend heat wave

MONTREAL — Relief is in sight for sweltering Canadians after a weekend… Continue reading

Trudeau’s former right-hand adviser playing role in Liberal election campaign

OTTAWA — With three months to go now until the election, the… Continue reading

Hotels face battle over whether to help US house migrants

DETROIT — There’s a new target in the clash over immigration: hotels.… Continue reading

Thousands visit Illinois governor mansion after renovations

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Thousands of people have visited the Illinois governor’s mansion… Continue reading

Canadian high school science courses behind on climate change, says UBC study

VANCOUVER — High school students in Canada may not be getting the… Continue reading

‘Us and them’: influence of Quebec anglos on decline with new Coalition government

MONTREAL — Last March, Quebec Premier Francois Legault made a mocking remark… Continue reading

Japanese Canadians call on B.C. to go beyond mere apology for historic racism

VANCOUVER — Japanese Canadians across the country are meeting to discuss how… Continue reading

Most Read