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Rafferty called the 'leader' in Tori Stafford disappearance

05/08/2012 08:30 EDT | Updated 07/08/2012 05:12 EDT

Michael Rafferty was in complete control during the abduction and death of eight-year-old Victoria (Tori) Stafford three years ago, jurors at his trial in London, Ont., were told during the first day of the Crown's closing arguments.

"He knew from the very beginning because he was the leader of the operation," prosecutor Kevin Gowdey said, adding that no "thinking, law-abiding person" would go along with what was clearly a kidnapping.

Rafferty, 31, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm and kidnapping. His trial, which began two months ago, is beginning to wind down and the jury is expected to begin deliberations later this week.

Tori disappeared on her way home from Oliver Stephens Public School on April 8, 2009. Her remains were found more than three months later in a rural area outside Mount Forest, a small community 100 kilometres north of Woodstock.

The Crown alleges the Grade 3 student was lured to Rafferty's vehicle by his then girlfriend, Terri-Lynne McClintic — a "violent pawn" acting on his orders.

McClintic pleaded guilty to the first-degree murder of Tori two years ago. The Crown said it's completely unrealistic to think that she acted alone.

"Together they did this to Tori Stafford," he said. "Together they are guilty."

The Crown argued that Rafferty was no mere bystander to — or chauffeur for — McClintic's "deranged" plan. Rafferty parked down the street from Tori's school because he didn't want the kidnapping to be seen, Gowdey said.

Tori's body was too decomposed to prove sexual assault, but the Crown highlighted the fact that she was found wearing only a Hannah Montana shirt. The only reason her clothes were taken off, said the Crown, was so Rafferty could sexually assault the girl.

The Crown also said Rafferty drove from Woodstock to near Mount Forest, Ont., because he wanted to attack the girl and conceal her body in a remote area with which he was familiar.

During the Crown's closing argument, which began Tuesday morning, Gowdey said Rafferty is responsible for the girl's death along with McClintic, who is currently serving a life sentence.

McClintic a focus of closing arguments

In March, McClintic testified she and Rafferty drove the girl to Guelph, to purchase painkillers and a hammer, and then to Mount Forest. McClintic told jurors she killed the girl by hitting her with the hammer after watching Rafferty sexually assault the eight-year-old.

She had previously maintained that Rafferty killed Tori.

"[McClintic] was the violent pawn that Michael Rafferty used to make this happen for himself," prosecutor Gowdey told the jury. He said Rafferty directed McClintic throughout the abduction and instructed her to purchase the murder weapon from a Home Depot in Guelph.

The Crown also sought to blunt the attack on McClintic's credibility as a witness, launched by defence lawyer Dirk Derstine. Derstine described her as a "prolific and accomplished liar" and pointed to a history of violent incidents during the defence's closing argument on Monday.

However, Gowdey said the attack was focused only on her character and not the evidence presented during the trial.

He also sought to discredit the defence's contention that McClintic was the "engine" behind the abduction and Rafferty merely a horrified spectator.

Crown says lies 'roll off' Rafferty's tongue

The Crown began reviewing evidence heard over the course of the trial, including that Rafferty was familiar with the area where Tori's body was found, and that the DNA evidence in his car is consistent with McClintic's testimony about sexual assault.

The Crown also played an excerpt from Rafferty’s first interview with police, in which he claimed he barely knew McClintic and that they were just friends. The video was intercut with other clips and evidence that showed Rafferty was not telling the truth.

“The lies just roll off his tongue,” said Gowdey.

Rafferty appeared uncomfortable, rolling his eyes and shaking his head during the Crown's closing arguments, CBC's Steven D'Souza reported from the courtroom.

Jurors were also shown autopsy photographs.

Rodney Stafford afraid of having an 'outburst'

It was all too much for Tori's father, Rodney Stafford, who left the courthouse saying it was too difficult to hear about the last moments of his daughter's life.

"It's too hard for me to sit back and not be able to say anything about it," Stafford said outside the courtroom, adding that he feared he could have an outburst and ruin everything.

"I have to allow all this to take its course. I'm fed up. I'm tired."

Rafferty's mother, Deborah Murphy, a woman who had thus far only been mentioned in passing over the course of the trial, addressed the media outside the courthouse on Monday.

"There's only two things I have to say," Murphy said. "First of all, my son is innocent, and 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 freed."

On Monday, Justice Thomas Heeney warned jurors that closing arguments should not be taken as evidence when they begin their deliberations, expected later this week.

The Crown's closing argument will continue on Wednesday at 10 a.m. ET.

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