NEWS

Stafford trial expert places Rafferty's vehicle near school

04/26/2012 10:58 EDT | Updated 06/26/2012 05:12 EDT

A police expert in forensic video analysis testified today that Michael Rafferty's Honda Civic cannot be excluded as the car seen in a surveillance video moments before Victoria (Tori) Stafford disappeared outside her school in Woodstock, Ont.

Ontario Provincial Police Special Const. Gerald Lanna said he examined screen grabs of a vehicle of interest seen driving past Oliver Stephens Public School on the afternoon of April 8, 2009.

Lanna told jurors the same car drives past the area at 3:30 p.m., just two minutes before Tori was seen being led away from her school by Rafferty's girlfriend, Terri-Lynne McClintic. It was captured on video driving past the school at 9:04 a.m. and 3:05 p.m.

Rafferty, 31, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm and kidnapping. Over the last eight weeks, the 12-member jury has heard from dozens of witnesses.

Lanna is the last witness to be called by the Crown, which is expected to wrap its case against Rafferty on Thursday.

He was able to more positively identify Rafferty's car on surveillance video at a nearby Esso gas station at 3:20 p.m. the day Tori vanished.

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.

In most of the surveillance videos, images of the "vehicle of interest" were much grainier than the Esso surveillance video or the car was simply farther away from the camera, making it harder for him to compare the unique identifying features on Rafferty's car, he said.

Prosecutors allege the Grade 3 student was lured to Rafferty's car by McClintic, who pleaded guilty to first-degree murder two years ago. The pair then drove the girl to Guelph and later to Mount Forest, where she was allegedly raped and killed.

Earlier in the trial, McClintic was the Crown's star witness. Over two weeks, she provided chilling testimony about the last moments of Tori's life. The 21-year-old told the court she killed the girl after hitting her in the head with a hammer, contradicting previous statements she made implicating Rafferty in the girl's death.

Rafferty portrayed as 'horrified' spectator

The defence has suggested McClintic was the "engine" behind the abduction who offered the girl to Rafferty as a sexual gift, and when he declined, she killed the girl. Rafferty was merely a "horrified" spectator, according to the defence.

On Wednesday, court heard from a provincial police officer who testified Rafferty kept in contact with McClintic — exchanging text messages and phone calls with a phone she used — in the days following Tori's disappearance, and visited her in juvenile detention after she was arrested in an unrelated matter on April 12, 2009.

Jurors were shown video from two visits, in which Rafferty and McClintic appear to be happy together, laughing, joking and hugging at the Genest Detention Centre for Youth in London.

McClintic, who is currently serving a life sentence, implicated herself and Rafferty in the girl's death on May 19, 2009, and he was arrested that evening.

She agreed to help investigators locate the girl's body, which was eventually found in a field near Mount Forest, 100 kilometres north of Woodstock, by a lone police officer.

The defence has not said whether it will present any evidence or if Rafferty will be called to testify.

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