Michael Rafferty Trial: Jurors Heard That Suspect Was Constantly Checking News After Stafford's Disappearance

Posted: 04/12/2012 4:00 am Updated: 04/13/2012 7:16 am

LONDON, Ont. - In the days following Victoria Stafford's disappearance, the man accused of killing her began dating new women and worked on his beat-up car, but he was also obsessively checking the news for updates about the eight-year-old's abduction, court heard Thursday.

Several women were called to testify at Michael Rafferty's trial about when exactly they may or may not have seen his car's back seat — on which he allegedly sexually assaulted Tori — which was missing by the time he was arrested.

THE TRIAL, IN PHOTOS

But they also painted a picture of Rafferty's relationships with women, which were mostly brief yet constantly overlapping and often began online. Court has so far heard about at least seven women he dated through the spring of 2009.

One of those women was Terri-Lynne McClintic, now 21, who pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in Tori's death and implicated Rafferty. McClintic testified she kidnapped Tori at Rafferty's urging on April 8, 2009, and he raped the girl before she killed her. McClintic had previously told police Rafferty was the one who killed Tori.

She also testified that on the drive back to Woodstock, Ont., after leaving Tori's body in a farmer's field, Rafferty got her to cut out stained sections of the back seat, where McClintic said the sexual assault took place. She threw the pieces of fabric and foam out the window along the highway, McClintic testified.

Rafferty, 31, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm and kidnapping.

His 2003 Honda Civic, blue with an uneven coat of black spray paint, was missing the bench portion of the back seat when he was arrested May 19. Just when it was removed was the subject of conflicting testimony Thursday.

Women who dated Rafferty in March testified his car had a back seat and women he was dating in April and May noticed his car had no back seat.

Four former neighbours of Rafferty from Woodstock, Ont., testified they saw the back seat of his car out on his lawn in mid-April for a garbage pickup.

Mike Griswold, who lived near Rafferty and his mother, said the back seat was in the car when he helped move Rafferty from Guelph, Ont., to Woodstock in 2008 and in early spring 2009 when he told Rafferty to turn down the music in his car.

Then Griswold noticed the seat sitting in front of the Rafferty household for garbage pickup about April 15, along with a piece of foam. It had a straight cut in one side, he said.

Under cross-examination by Rafferty's lawyer, Dirk Derstine, Griswold also recalled that he had told police he saw Rafferty take the seat out on March 29, 2009, to install large speakers, and that Rafferty put it in his backyard shed.

Melanie LaBute, 39, who went out with Rafferty a few times in March 2009 testified she believed there was a back seat in his car then. He asked her out at the Staples store where she worked by saying he was new in town and wondered if she knew of any good restaurants, she testified.

They played pool with some of LaBute's friends a few days later and when he drove her home that night she said his car looked dirty, that it was littered with Tim Hortons coffee cups and had blankets draped over the back seat.

"It just made me think of somebody who lived inside their car," she said.

Rafferty picked LaBute up again the next morning and tried to take her out for breakfast, but he got lost, though it didn't matter to LaBute at that time because she said she had already decided she wasn't interested.

"He just seemed really needy to me," she testified. "He did end up calling...He had just asked, 'Why haven't you called me? Is there something wrong?'"

LaBute decided to break things off in person, and that was the last time she saw Rafferty, a few days later in March, she said.

Alexis Lane, 30, testified Wednesday that she and Rafferty dated for a few weeks between late February and April 1, and that his car did have a back seat when she last saw him on March 23.

Sarah Hodge, 31, started chatting with Rafferty on the dating website Plenty of Fish in late March and first met up with him in person on April 14, she testified. The relationship lasted about two weeks but they saw each other every day, she said. During that time he was obsessed with the story of Victoria Stafford, she said.

"He was constantly checking the news for it," Hodge said. "If it was on TV he'd turn on the TV and watch it or if I had the newspaper he would pull it out and read it as well."

Rafferty also told her he had "all the inside information" on the case, including details about the custody of Tori. Hodge and Rafferty also had conversations that he initiated about kidnapping children, she said.

Hodge also noted that Rafferty was taking OxyContin at the time, saying "he thought he had colon cancer," though he kept the pills in unmarked bottles or balled up in tinfoil in his pocket. She too saw no back seat in his car.

Yet another woman, whose name can't be published, met Rafferty on April 12 after chatting online on Plenty of Fish and dated him until his arrest. Rafferty, who normally shows little animation or emotion in the prisoners' box, smiled during the woman's testimony, and carefully watched his other ex-girlfriends walk in and out of the courtroom.

The only time the woman was in his car was on May 3, when he parked in her driveway and installed speaker mounts, she said, and there was no back seat.

Tamarra Moore, 29, who met Rafferty online in 2003 and became friends with him, testified that his car was missing the back seat when he visited her in Guelph, Ont., on May 7.

McClintic was arrested well before Rafferty, on April 12, 2009, on an unrelated matter after she caught the attention of police early on in the Tori Stafford investigation. Rafferty's name wasn't on the radar until May, court has heard, and when they did a cursory interview with him on May 15 he distanced himself from McClintic. It was around that time that Rafferty mentioned the names of the other women, court has heard.

But Hodge and the woman who can't be identified told a different story about Rafferty's relationship with McClintic. They both testified that he was worried about her well-being in jail, frequently visiting McClintic and attending her court appearance on the other charge.

Rafferty also told the unnamed woman McClintic had been questioned in Tori's disappearance and that he had been questioned as well, because of his association with McClintic.

"When it came to him being questioned he seemed sort of upset about that," she said. "He seemed upset for this young woman that he was friends with. He felt that she had been making good strides in her life and felt that this was not something appropriate, I guess, or it wasn't fair."

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  • Rodney Stafford, father of slain Victoria Stafford, speaks to the media as he arrives at the courthouse in London Ontario, Tuesday, May 15, 2012 for the sentencing hearing for Michael Rafferty, who was convicted Friday of Victoria's murder. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Geoff Robins

  • After The Verdict

    Rodney Stafford, father of slain Victoria Stafford reacts after Michael Rafferty was found guilty on all three charges at the murder trial in London, Ontario, Friday, May 11, 2012. <br> THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley

  • Reaction

    Rodney Stafford, father of slain Victoria Stafford holds a photo of his daughter as he speaks to the media, with his mother Doreen Graichen, sister Rebecca Nichols and brother Rob Stafford looking on, after Michael Rafferty was found guilty on all three charges at the murder trial in London, Ontario, Friday, May 11, 2012. <br> CREDIT: CP

  • Longest Day

    Rodney Stafford, father of Victoria (Tori) Stafford, holds his head in in hands late in the afternoon at the courthouse for the Michael Rafferty murder trial in London, Ont., Friday, May 11, 2012. <br> CREDIT: CP

  • Rodney Stafford, father of slain eight-year-old Woodstock girl Victoria Stafford, talks to reporters during a break in proceedings at the trial of Michael Rafferty, the accused in his daughter's murder in London, Ontario, Tuesday, May 1, 2012.THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Geoff Robins

  • The grave of Victoria (Tori) Stafford on Easter Sunday, the third anniversary of the day the eight-year-old girl vanished while walking home from school, in Woodstock, Ontario, Sunday, April, 8, 2012. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley)

  • Dirk Derstein, defence lawyer for Michael Rafferty, the accused in the murder of Woodstock, Ontario schoolgirl Victoria Stafford talks briefly with reporters during a break in proceedings at the trial in London, Ontario, Tuesday, May 1, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Geoff Robins

  • Terri-Lynn McClintic and Michael Rafferty are shown in these police handout photos released as court exhibits at Rafferty's trial in London, Ont., Wednesday, April 4, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO

  • Michael Rafferty and Terri-Lynne McClintic embrace in this still image taken from a police handout video dated May 8, 2009. Rafferty visited McClintic twice at a detention centre, where she was taken after being arrested days after the killing of Victoria Stafford on an unrelated matter. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)

  • Terri-Lynn McClintic is shown in police handout photos released as court exhibits at Michael Rafferty's trial in London, Ont., Thursday, April 5, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO

  • Michael Rafferty is shown in a police handout photo released as court exhibits at Rafferty's trial in London, Ont., Thursday, April 5, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO

  • Michael Rafferty's 2003 Honda Civic is shown in this court handout photo along with other exhibits. A tiny spot of dried blood on the rubber moulding of the back passenger side door on Michael Rafferty's car was found to contain DNA matching the eight-year-old girl's profile, forensic biologist Jennifer McLean testified Wednesday at Rafferty's trial. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO

  • A butterfly earring worn by Victoria Stafford are shown in this evidence photo released Tuesday, April 3, 2012 at the trial trial of Michael Rafferty. Court has heard that she had borrowed the earrings from her mom on April 8, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO

  • Victoria Stafford's T-shirt is shown in this evidence photo released Tuesday, April 3, 2012 at the trial trial of Michael Rafferty. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO

  • Michael Rafferty is transported from the courthouse in the back of police cruiser in London, Ontario, Wednesday, March, 14, 2012. Rafferty is facing charges in the death of Victoria (Tori) Stafford. Court is hearing that Rafferty was "stressed out" in the days after her disappearance.(THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley)

  • Accused Michael Rafferty is shown in court in London, Ont., Monday, March 5, 2012 in this artist's sketch. The trial of Rafferty, 31, began Monday nearly three years after Victoria Stafford disappeared outside her elementary school in Woodstock, Ont. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tammy Hoy)

  • Terri-Lynne McClintic, left, is transported from court for proceedings in the Michael Rafferty murder trial in London, Ontario, Friday, March, 16, 2012. Rafferty is charged with several offences including first-degree murder in the death of eight-year-old Victoria "Tori" Stafford. McClintic is already serving a life sentence after pleading guilty two years ago to first-degree murder in Tori's death. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley

  • Evidence letter written by Terri-Lynne McClintic in the Michael Rafferty murder trial in London, Ont., Thursday, March, 22, 2012. Rafferty has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm and kidnapping. McClintic has already plead guilty of first degree murder in the case. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley)

  • Rodney Stafford, father of slain Victoria (Tori) Stafford walks from the courthouse during a break in the proceedings for the Michael Rafferty murder trial in London, Ontario, Thursday, March, 22, 2012. Rafferty has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm and kidnapping. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley

  • A tearful Tara McDonald, mother of slain eight-year-old Woodstock girl Victoria Stafford, receives a hug from partner James Goris during a break in proceedings at the trial for Michael Rafferty, the accused in her daughter's murder in London Ontario,Tuesday, March 13, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Geoff Robins

  • Tara McDonald (center) mother of slain Victoria (Tori) Stafford walks from court after completing her testimony in the Michael Rafferty murder trial in London, Ontario, Wednesday, March, 7, 2012. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley)

  • Terri-Lynne McClintic is transported from court for proceedings in the Michael Rafferty murder trial in London, Ontario, Friday, March, 16, 2012. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley)

  • Terri-Lynne McClintic is transported from court for proceedings in the Michael Rafferty murder trial in London, Ontario, Friday, March, 16, 2012. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley)

  • Terri-Lynne McClintic testifies at the Michael Rafferty murder trial in London, Ont., Tuesday, March 13, 2012. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tammy Hoy)

  • The Disappearance And Death Of Tori Stafford

    Victoria (Tori) Stafford, 8, disappeared while on her way home from school in Woodstock, Ont., on April 8, 2009. (Photo: An undated family handout, CP). <em>The following text is by the Huffington Post Canada, will files from CP</em>

  • For weeks, her parents, family friends and community members searched for the little girl. <em>(Photo: Cassandra Craig and Shiloh Roth hang a poster for missing Stafford, 8, on a street corner in Woodstock, Ont., on Friday April 10, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley)</em>

  • Meanwhile, hundreds of police searched local ponds, a landfill, and used a helicopter for aerial sweeps of Oxford County. <em>(Photo: Ontario Provincial Police officers search the Oxford County landfill site Tuesday, April 21, 2009, for clues. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley)</em>

  • Tori's mother, Tara McDonald, held daily press conferences as the national media descended on the town of 35,000 in southern Ontario. <em>(Photo: Tara McDonald speaks to reporters in Woodstock, Tuesday, April 21, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley)</em>

  • The girl's body was found three months later in a field near Mount Forest, Ont. <em>(PHOTO: Funeral home attendants load the remains of the girl into a hearse July 20, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese)</em>

  • Michael Rafferty, 31, is charged with first-degree murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm and kidnapping in the death of Victoria Stafford. His trial began with jury selection in the last days of February, 2012. <em>(Photo: Rafferty leaves the courthouse in Woodstock, Ont., Feb. 7, 2011).</em>

  • Terri-Lynne McClintic, now 21, has already been convicted of first-degree murder in the girl's death. She pleaded guilty in April 2010 and was given a mandatory life sentence, with no chance of parole for 25 years. <em>(PHOTO: An undated Facebook photo of McClintic).</em>

  • McClintic's guilty plea could not be reported until December 2010 due to a sweeping publication ban imposed by Justice Dougald McDermid. The ban was partially lifed by the Supreme Court of Canada, though some details remain under the ban in order to protect Rafferty's right to a fair trial. <em>(PHOTO: Justice McDermid enters court in Woodstock, Ont., on Friday, April 30, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Robins)</em>

  • After Tori's funeral, her father, Rodney Stafford, went on a bike ride to Edmonton in her memory with Child Find Ontario, the <a href="http://www.thestar.com/news/ontario/article/1135756--the-main-players-in-the-tori-stafford-murder-case-where-are-they-now?bn=1" target="_hplink">Toronto Star reports</a>. He raised more than $25,000. He plans to attend the <a href="http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/story/2012/02/26/stafford-murder-trial.html" target="_hplink">murder trial, telling CBC,</a> "There'll never be closure because I still wake up every morning without my daughter." <em>(PHOTO: Stafford, father of slain eight-year-old Tori Stafford, leaves court in London, Ont., on Monday, Jan. 16, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Robins)</em>

  • Rafferty's trial was moved from Woodstock to nearby London in light of publicity surrounding the girl's death. His lawyer, Dirk Derstine, suggested outside court that people should keep an open mind. "I expect that the evidence to be called will be different than what everybody is perhaps expecting," he said. <em>(PHOTO: Dirk Derstine leaves court in London, Ont., on Monday, Jan. 16, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Robins)</em>

  • OPP Detective Inspector Bill Renton was the lead investigator in the Tori Stafford murder case. He's seen here arriving at the Middlesex Court House in London, Ont., Monday, Feb. 27, 2012 on the first day of jury selection in the first degree murder trial of Michael Rafferty. <em>(PHOTO: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Spowart)</em>

  • Tori Stafford seen with her older brother, Daryn Stafford, in this family handout. <em>(Dave Chidley/Canadian Press)</em>

  • Crown lawyers outside the courthouse where the Michael Rafferty trial is being held.

  • The Trial, In Photos

    Rafferty's mother spoke Monday, May 7, for the first time since her son was arrested and charged in May 2009, six weeks after Tori was killed. She placed the blame for what happened to Tori squarely on Terri-Lynne McClintic. "My son is innocent," Deborah Murphy said as she faced a wall of cameras outside the courthouse. "This could happen to any man that's walking around right now. Terri-Lynne McClintic has wrecked our lives and I just hope that justice is served and that he's free." (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley)

  • Tara McDonald, mother of slain eight-year-old Woodstock girl Victoria Stafford, receives a hug following the last day of evidence in the trial of Michael Rafferty, the accused in her daughter's murder, in London Ontario, Tuesday, May 1, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Geoff Robins

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