LONDON, Ont. — The car belonging to the man accused of killing Victoria Stafford was a unique assortment of poorly done or oddly fashioned modifications, and it was those features that can be seen in surveillance video from the day the eight-year-old was abducted, court heard Thursday.
The Crown’s case against Michael Rafferty wound down Thursday the same way it began, with a focus on video. Gerald Lanna, a forensic video analyst with Ontario Provincial Police, examined surveillance tapes that the Crown alleges help trace Rafferty’s route on April 8, 2009.
It’s alleged that he urged girlfriend Terri-Lynne McClintic to kidnap a young girl, she selected Tori, then they drove out of Woodstock, Ont., to Guelph, where they stopped to get cash and buy a hammer and garbage bags. From there they drove north to a rural area where Tori was sexually assaulted and killed, it’s alleged.
Surveillance video captured the same car driving past Tori’s elementary school at 9:04 a.m., 3:05 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. on April 8, and Lanna could find no differences to Rafferty’s 2003 Honda Civic, which was eventually seized by police after his arrest.
Lanna was able to more positively identify Rafferty’s car on surveillance video at a nearby Esso gas station at 3:20 p.m. that day.
The blotchy black paint job over most of the blue car, the whitewashed interior, the dark rims, the rear spoiler and the off-centre air intake on the hood of the car were several features that helped Lanna reach his conclusion.
“To me, I would have to say that that’s our vehicle,” Lanna testified.
Police went to Honda to ask about the “hood scoop” or air intake on the hood of Rafferty’s car and discovered it was not a Honda option. The company said it would be “quite unusual” for a factory or dealer to install such a scoop because of its negative impact in crash tests, Lanna testified.
Most of the surveillance videos on which investigators pointed Lanna to a “vehicle of interest” were much grainier than the Esso surveillance video or the car was simply further away from the camera, making it harder for him to compare the unique identifying features on Rafferty’s car, he said.
Rafferty, 31, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm and kidnapping in Stafford’s death.
McClintic is already serving a life sentence after pleading guilty two years ago to first-degree murder.
McClintic, who confessed to abducting Tori and implicated Rafferty in the murder, was the Crown’s star witness, testifying over six days about what she says happened that day.
Up until the trial, McClintic maintained Rafferty killed Tori, but while she testified that she had actually killed the girl, other details of her story remained the same, such as saying that Rafferty urged her to kidnap a young girl and that he sexually assaulted Tori.
Crown attorney Kevin Gowdey told the nine women and three men of the jury in his opening address that it is not necessary for them to determine who exactly did what, but whether Rafferty and McClintic acted together to bring about the girl’s death.
Lanna was the Crown’s 61st and final witness as the prosecution concluded its case against Rafferty.
The trial, which began March 5, got off to an emotional start as Tori’s Grade 3 teacher Jennifer Griffin-Murrell wept while describing the “lovely” little girl’s last day at school, spent jumping in puddles and researching plants on a computer.
“She was a caring little girl, very sensitive,” Griffin-Murrell told the trial two months ago. “She was kind of like a mother hen to a lot of the younger kids in the (the split Grade 2/3) class. She always wanted to help.”
Griffin-Murrell said Tori was inquisitive, well-liked and was “obsessed” with the TV show “Hannah Montana.”
Tori was wearing a “Hannah Montana” T-Shirt the day she died. When her remains were found 103 days later near Mount Forest, Ont., she was wearing nothing else.