LONDON, Ont. - Terri-Lynne McClintic is like "Jekyll and Hyde," casting herself as an unwilling participant in her lover's scheme to abduct a child, when in fact the bloodthirsty young woman sought out Victoria Stafford and savagely murdered her, Michael Rafferty's lawyer suggested Monday.
WARNING: Details from this court case may disturb some readers.
Rafferty was there when Tori died from blows to the head with a hammer, and he may have even come to realize at some point in the 2 1/2 hours the little girl was in his car that she was being held against her will, lawyer Dirk Derstine told the jury in his closing arguments.
The rest, he scoffed, is a fiction invented by a troubled woman who "perjured herself over and over and over again." McClintic, who has a proven history of violence and torture ideation, was the true engine behind Tori's death, Derstine said.
The kidnapping was not orchestrated by Rafferty, there is no objective evidence that Rafferty raped Tori as alleged, and he is not the one who wielded the hammer, Derstine suggested. For McClintic to testify otherwise is "absurd," he said.
"Clearly, Ms. McClintic is a prolific and accomplished liar," Derstine told the jury. It would be "dangerous, if not impossible, to rely on her testimony in order to convict."
Rafferty's mother spoke Monday for the first time since her son was arrested and charged in May 2009, six weeks after Tori was killed. She too placed the blame for what happened to Tori squarely on 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."
McClintic testified that Rafferty urged her to kidnap a young girl for him, that he made several stops before driving to a rural location and raping the girl, and that pent-up rage from her own childhood traumas caused McClintic to snap and murder Tori.
That testimony marked a change from what she told police for years — that Rafferty was the one who killed Tori with a hammer — but Derstine suggested that is the one part of her story that should be believed.
But she didn't simply snap but was teeming with rage, Derstine suggested. She is the one who plucked Tori out of the crowd of schoolchildren to abduct, she is the one who had met Tori's mother, she is the one who Tori seemed to follow unquestioningly, she is the one who bought the murder weapon, a hammer, en route to the field where Tori was killed, Derstine said.
"What do you covet?" Derstine said. "You covet that which you see. Michael Rafferty lives on the other end of town. She lives up the street."
There are about 15 elementary schools in Woodstock, Ont., and 326 students were attending Tori's school. Derstine questioned McClintic's assertion that she randomly abducted Tori, despite having ties to her mother and living nearby.
"Is that a coincidence?" he asked the jury. "You decide."
In his cross-examination of McClintic in March, Derstine suggested to her that she kidnapped Tori over a drug debt — an assertion McClintic denied. But he didn't repeat it in his closing remarks. He did not offer an explanation as to why McClintic might have killed Tori or even targeted her at all, but Derstine reminded the jury he doesn't have to prove anything. The onus is on the Crown to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Rafferty, 31, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm and kidnapping.
The objective evidence points to McClintic, and there is only her word to turn it against Rafferty, Derstine said. She is on surveillance video leading Tori away from school. She is on surveillance video buying the hammer and garbage bags at a Home Depot that day.
McClintic and Rafferty weren't soulmates, Derstine said. She herself described him as a guy that she was seeing. Why would she go along with this plan for someone she didn't particularly care about, Derstine asked.
"You look into the eyes of this little girl and....you don't think to yourself, what am I doing? What am I doing? I barely know this guy. And why am I kidnapping someone?" Derstine said.
Why, when in McClintic's version of events Rafferty stops at Tim Hortons en route to the murder scene, would she not have jumped out of the car screaming for help, he said.
"So you're in front of this bustling hive of humanity, knowing that this little lark that you got yourself into — as if — you know, all of a sudden this turned into this incredible nightmare," Derstine said sarcastically. "What, she just sits there and waits for her tea?"
Rafferty's actions on that drive were not indicative of a man who has just spirited a young girl away, Derstine said. He stopped at Tim Hortons, he bought Percocets and stayed inside his ex-girlfriend/dealer's house for about 10 minutes, idly chatting, then he stopped to get cash.
McClintic testified that Rafferty gave her the cash to buy the hammer and garbage bags so they didn't leave a trail. But perhaps McClintic spotted the neighbouring Home Depot as Rafferty was using an ATM in a gas station, realized she needed murder tools and suggested a stop at the Home Depot, Derstine said. Rafferty, a grown man, certainly wouldn't have needed "tools" to kill an eight-year-old girl, and he had a utility knife in the car that McClintic said she only learned of after the killing, Derstine said.
If she was really in the Home Depot as a hesitant accomplice, surely she would have begged someone to call police and put the brakes on the impending murder, he said.
"What on God's green acre could she have been thinking to continue with this scheme if she was not the engine behind it?" he said to the jury.
Because of advanced decomposition, it is impossible to tell whether Tori was raped or not. The Crown will likely suggest that the fact that Tori's body was clothed only in a T-shirt when it was hidden under a pile of rocks leads to no other conclusion, Derstine said. But there are many ways to look at circumstantial evidence, he said.
"What if, for example, that little girl was killed while peeing?" Derstine said. "I'm not suggesting there was any evidence of that."
A tiny bloodstain on Rafferty's gym bag that was in his car was found to contain a mixture of what can be considered for all intents and purposes DNA from Tori and Rafferty. But it doesn't mean it came from blood from both of them, a forensic biologist testified.
It would be surprising if Rafferty's DNA wasn't on his gym bag, and it's possible that after she finished killing Tori, McClintic leaned in the car to get a water bottle for the clean-up effort and a drop of blood fell onto the bag, Derstine said.
McClintic also testified that when Rafferty was raping Tori, they were both naked from the waist down. Does it make sense that Rafferty would have been standing barefoot in the snow, then proceeded, still barefoot, to kick and stomp on the little girl, Derstine asked.
The Crown will likely suggest in their closing address Tuesday that Rafferty's post-offence behaviour — continuing to sleep around with many different women and going about his usual routine, but also claiming to help in the search for Tori and profess hope she would be home soon — is indicative of guilt, Derstine said.
"After this particular scene Michael acted in certain ways you may find betray some sort of moral failing," Derstine said. "Plainly he was covering something up. Plainly he knew what had happened to Tori. It is not to his credit."
But to suggest that Rafferty could not have been a horrified spectator to Tori's murder by McClintic because he continued his promiscuous ways is disingenuous, Derstine said.
"How can you look at how Michael acted and intuited what must have been on his mind?" he said.
Simply put, Derstine suggested, McClintic's evidence is not to be trusted. Her story can't be used to fill in the gaps of the evidence, he said. She has lied in the past and she lied to the jury, Derstine said, with one exception.
"I still urge you to find that you could find beyond a reasonable doubt that she was the one who bashed in poor Tori Stafford's head," Derstine said.
What happened to Tori has not been disputed by Derstine. A pathologist testified that Tori was hit in the head with a hammer at least four times and had many rib fractures and a lacerated liver that could be consistent with kicking and stomping. Derstine urged the jury to look past the emotion of the case.
"This trial is set against the backdrop of an unspeakable tragedy," he said. "It is all too easy to let the horror of that particular day overwhelm this trial and overwhelm your deliberations."