LONDON, Ont. - A woman convicted of killing Victoria Stafford flatly denied a suggestion Thursday that she was the "engine" behind a plot that went deeper than she has let on, saying she didn't think she was walking the eight-year-old girl to her death.
WARNING: Graphic details from this court case may disturb some readers.
"I take full responsibility for my actions," Terri-Lynne McClintic told court. "I did what I did. But I'm not the only guilty party here, and that's why I'm sitting here today."
The 21-year-old is already serving a life sentence after pleading guilty to first-degree murder, but is now testifying at the trial of her ex-boyfriend. Michael Rafferty, 31, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm and kidnapping.
The jury has now seen how McClintic's story about the events of April 8, 2009, the day Tori disappeared, has morphed from an all-out denial, to saying she was there but didn't see how Tori died, to saying Rafferty raped Tori and then killed her using a hammer, to now saying it was she who inflicted the fatal blows.
The latest version of events first came up at a counselling session just days before the start of Rafferty's pre-trial in January, court heard.
Rafferty's lawyer grilled McClintic on her credibility, suggesting that if his client's trial were to be held next year the court would hear her say she "did more than just kill her."
"I'm going to suggest to you, that you were the engine who drove the events of that day?" Dirk Derstine asked McClintic.
"That will never happen because that's not the truth," she replied.
McClintic has testified that originally she was psychologically unable to fathom she had killed a girl, so she had blocked it out and genuinely believed she hadn't killed Tori. Derstine expressed skepticism, to which McClintic, appearing to hold back tears, delivered a long reply.
"You don't want to believe that you are a person that's capable of this. It's taken me this long to come to terms and accept that I was capable of doing something like this," she said.
"When I woke up April 8th I never had murder on my mind. I did not plan on kidnapping a little girl. I did not have the intention of someone losing their life...When I walked down that street with that little girl I did not think I was walking her to her death and I sure as hell didn't think it would be my hands that took her life.
"So yes, it did take me time to come to terms with that, but now I have come to terms with that and I'm sitting here today telling the truth. It doesn't get any more real than that."
McClintic also denied suggestions that she knew Tori, whose old house was near McClintic's aunt's home and whose new house was blocks away from McClintic's. When McClintic approached Tori that day she says she talked about shih tzus, though she says she was unaware Tori had a shih tzu.
Tori's mother and her mother's boyfriend bought drugs from McClintic's mother, but she insisted she did not know them beyond a passing acquaintance. McClintic has said she grabbed Tori outside her Woodstock, Ont., elementary school because she was the only child who was alone.
The jury saw video clips Thursday of McClintic sitting in a police station four days after she lured Tori away from school, watching surveillance video of the abduction, laughing, saying there was "no way in hell" that was her in the white, puffy coat.
McClintic tells the officer she was in the area that day wearing a white jacket, walking home after picking up drugs around the time school let out, but repeatedly denies it is her on the video. Under cross-examination Thursday she repeated that at the time she didn't want to believe she was involved, so she thought she was telling the truth.
"I had pushed things out of my mind," she told the court Thursday. "I just couldn't believe that I was involved with something like this. I'm not denying that I have a history of violence, but I'm not violent towards children and I've never hurt a child in my life."
The jury has heard that McClintic's young life was marked by violence, including hitting her mother in the face so hard that she lost most of the vision in one eye, a violent streak that continued with incidents throughout her time in and out of custody. She wrote disturbing letters and journal entries with torture imagery and talk of wanting to kick someone in the ribs and use a hammer in their murder.
Court has heard that Tori died after being kicked in the ribs and hit in the head with a hammer.
Derstine also cross-examined McClintic about journal writings filled with what he called "deeply disturbing, horrifically violent imagery."
McClintic wrote about wanting to grab a random person, mutilate them, smash their skull and inflict various manners of torture upon them. At the time she wrote them, she said, a year or two before Tori's murder, she used her writing as an outlet to vent her rage.
"You confessed under oath to beating a child to death with a hammer," Derstine said. "That's a little bit more than anger issues, wouldn't you agree?"
McClintic said she's not proud of who she was then, but she underwent a transformation in July 2008 when she got in touch with her emotions.
"I would say there were many things at play that day and I'm not going to make excuses for what happened," McClintic said. "I will never try to make excuses for what happened. But things were more complicated than just, as you say...my anger issues."
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