POLITICS

Defence paints Michael Rafferty as innocent dupe in Tori Stafford death

03/23/2012 04:00 EDT | Updated 05/22/2012 05:12 EDT
LONDON, Ont. - Michael Rafferty was just a horrified spectator to Terri-Lynne McClintic's master plan to kidnap and murder eight-year-old Victoria Stafford over a drug debt, turning down McClintic's offering of the girl as a sexual "gift," the defence suggested Friday.

WARNING: Graphic details from this court case may disturb some readers.

Rafferty's lawyer Dirk Derstine portrayed his client as an innocent dupe, totally unaware of why his girlfriend shoved a girl into his car the afternoon of April 8, 2009, near a Woodstock, Ont., elementary school. Conversely, Derstine portrayed McClintic as a hardened criminal with an insatiable thirst for violence.

The jury has seen two very different sides of McClintic: the weeping young woman filled with regret and horror about the terrible things she said Rafferty did to Tori, and the gangster who lived and breathed torturous violence, so inherently filled with rage that as a child she microwaved a dog.

McClintic is already serving a life sentence after pleading guilty to first-degree murder in Tori's death. Her testimony as the central witness in the case against Rafferty for the past two weeks wrapped up Friday with Derstine dramatically laying out suggestions of what happened that day three years ago. McClintic denied it all.

"The abduction in this case was your idea... you went and lured this girl and brought her in the car all friendly and Michael thought nothing of it," Derstine suggested. "Later on you told him that the girl was in the car for a drug debt and still later...you offered her to Michael, sexually."

"I very much disagree with you," McClintic replied.

"When it became clear he didn't want your gift you directed him to a rural location on a pretext... you said that she could be taken to a safe house," Derstine suggested. "Once you got to that lane you told him to walk away because you had to talk to the little girl because she was scared of him."

When Rafferty returned to the vehicle Tori was already dead, bludgeoned with a hammer, and he "was horrified," but helped McClintic clean up, Derstine suggested.

McClintic denied it all.

She has testified that Rafferty urged her to kidnap a young girl for him, but when she brought Tori back to the vehicle he said she should have picked someone younger. In Rafferty's car they drove north to a rural area, but not before stopping at Tim Hortons, to pick up percocets for Rafferty and buy a hammer and garbage bags at a Home Depot in Guelph, Ont.

Once at the murder scene Rafferty raped Tori then McClintic, whose mind was carried back to her own childhood traumas, snapped and killed the girl, she testified.

However, court has heard she originally told a different story to police — that it was actually Rafferty who wielded the hammer and murdered Tori. Her recantation came as early as Jan. 13 of this year, court has heard, just days before the start of Rafferty's pre-trial.

The new version of events came out while talking to a counsellor, but when police came to the prison to take her new statement the next day, court heard, another detail in her story was different. McClintic said she was the one who decided to buy the hammer and garbage bags — it wasn't Rafferty who told her what to buy. McClintic said she was lying to police.

"I made that statement because I was trying to get out of testifying," she said.

Rafferty has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm and kidnapping.

McClintic has said that she used to be a very angry person, but that she had dealt with those issues by the time Tori was killed. However, Derstine showed her journal writings Friday made in the days after she was arrested in 2009.

She writes about feelings of rage, and as the entry goes over onto a second page the writing becomes frantic and eventually entirely in capital letters.

"I'm...gettin bloodthirsty again itz like I'm...relapsin on a habit," she scrawled in block letters. "I dunno how to stop it do I run from it what please if theirz a god help me before I self destruct!!"

Even as recently as this year, McClintic's anger issues seem to be ever present, Derstine suggested. He pointed to an incident at Grand Valley Institution for Women, where she is being housed, in which she kicked and stomped on another inmate who had curled up in the fetal position. Court has heard that is what happened to Tori before she died from the blows to the head.

McClintic admitted that she told her godmother during a visit at prison this year that the only thing that bothered her about Tori's murder was that "it was a little kid," otherwise she could do it again. Derstine also prompted McClintic about something else she told her godmother during that visit.

"Do you remember telling her that there were a couple little dogs around when you were a kid and that you microwaved one of them until it screamed?" he asked.

"I was a child," McClintic replied. "I didn't know what I was doing."

Court heard an audio interview Friday that shed a little light on Rafferty, because although this is his trial, little is actually known about him so far. McClintic came to the attention of police early on in their investigation, and after a few weeks Rafferty's name surfaced as one of her associates. Two Ontario Provincial Police officers went to his house in Woodstock on May 15, 2009 to talk to him.

"Just the stuff that you hear like on the news and stuff," Rafferty says when asked what he knows about the case. "I mean, you kind of keep your ears peeled to what everybody's saying too, because, you know, you want to help."

Rafferty repeats some rumours that he has heard about Tori's mother Tara McDonald and her boyfriend James Goris. But he is hesitant to give the names of former girlfriends. He minimizes his relationship with McClintic, laughing at the suggestion that she is his girlfriend.

"I'm the only person she knows who doesn't do drugs or doesn't, you know, I'm not in that group of people, I guess," Rafferty later adds.

"So maybe a good thing for her that way," says Det. Const. Gord Johnson.

"Maybe, but I'm nobody's personal case worker," Rafferty responds, laughing.

Rafferty says he was fairly new to Woodstock, having lived in Oakville, Ont., previously, working at his brother's construction and landscaping company. He also reveals he's a dancer and says he did training at a Fred Astaire Dance Studio to become an instructor. According to the studio's website it has locations across Canada and specializes in ballroom dance.