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Michael Rafferty Not Just A Bystander, Crown Argues In Trial's Closing Arguments

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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
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

LONDON, Ont. - Michael Rafferty used his disturbed lover as a "violent pawn" to help him carry out the abduction, rape and murder of eight-year-old Victoria Stafford, court heard Tuesday.

The Crown said in its closing submissions at Rafferty's first-degree murder trial that Rafferty was the one in control of the events of April 8, 2009, from start to finish.

The assertion lies in stark contrast to the defence closing arguments, in which Rafferty's lawyer Dirk Derstine suggested Terri-Lynne McClintic was the engine behind Tori's killing, and Rafferty had no idea what she was up to.

But Crown attorney Kevin Gowdey told the jury that Rafferty was no innocent bystander to McClintic's "deranged" plan.

"Michael Rafferty and Terri-Lynne McClintic were in this together," Gowdey said. "Together they did this to Tori Stafford. Together they are guilty."

"Terri-Lynne McClintic did not do this by herself, whatever the sugestion may be," Gowdey said. "She, in the Crown's submission, was a violent pawn that Michael Rafferty used to make this happen for himself."

McClintic, who is already serving a life sentence after pleading guilty to first-degree murder, testified that Rafferty urged her to kidnap a young girl for him, that he raped 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.

It doesn't matter whether the jury thinks McClintic physically killed Tori or if Rafferty did it, Gowdey said. If they acted together, that is enough to convict Rafferty.

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

Rafferty muttered to himself, shook his head and rolled his eyes several times while listening to Gowdey's closing address, mostly when Gowdey discussed the rape allegation.

By the time Tori's remains were found the decomposition was so advanced that forensic pathology cannot tell one way or the other if she was sexually assaulted.

Tori's DNA profile was found in blood on the rear passenger door frame and it was also found mixed with Rafferty's DNA profile in a tiny bloodstain on his gym bag, which was found in the car.

Gowdey suggested the most logical way for the two tiny spots of blood to have been deposited there is from the alleged sexual assault McClintic described as taking place in that area of the car.

Tori's remains were found clad only in a T-shirt, her lower extremities bare.

In McClintic, Gowdey suggested, Rafferty had found a partner to help carry out a scheme, but he was both the literal and figurative driver that day.

He drove to a rural area with which he was familiar, after spiriting the child 130 km away from her school in Woodstock, Ont., Gowdey said.

The location was carefully selected for his "evil intentions," Gowdey said, "away from civilization where no one will hear her scream, where no one will happen by and interrupt, where no one will find her body."

After the killing, Rafferty took deliberate steps to cover his tracks and lied to police, Gowdey said. When Rafferty was first interviewed by police on May 15 after his name came up as an associate of McClintic's, he told them he barely knew her.

He attempted to throw police off his trail by repeating rumours about Tori's mother, though he could have just as easily said a "raging homicidal maniac" is responsible and pointed police to Tori's body, Gowdey said.

One of Rafferty's most telling actions after April 8 was buying hair dye for McClintic once surveillance video was released showing her leading Tori away from school, Gowdey said.

"Why would a horrified witness who was an innocent dupe of Ms. McClintic take the steps to make the real killer change her appearance?" he said.

In the defence closing submissions on Monday, Derstine acknowledged that Rafferty was there when Tori died from blows to the head with a hammer. He may have even come to realize at some point during the 2 1/2 hours that the little girl in his car was being held against her will, the defence lawyer said.

The rest, he scoffed, is a fiction invented by a troubled woman who "perjured herself over and over and over again."

A person is guilty of first-degree murder if they cause someone's death while committing or attempting to commit a sexual assault or a kidnapping, Gowdey said. Someone can also be found guilty of the serious offence if they are found to have helped someone commit a murder.

The Crown's closing arguments continue Wednesday.

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