Michael Rafferty Verdict: Guilty On All Counts

CP  |  Posted: 05/11/2012 9:29 pm Updated: 05/12/2012 9:07 am

Tori Splash Image
Eight-year-old girl Tori Stafford was murdered in May 2009.

LONDON, Ont. - Victoria Stafford's father clutched her Grade 3 school picture — taken the day before his little girl was abducted, sexually assaulted and brutally murdered — and he held it above the jostling cameras after one of Tori's killers was brought to justice for the terrible crime.

"It was all for this little girl right here," Rodney Stafford said, holding back tears. "Not just Tori, but for every little child in Canada that doesn't deserve what happened to her."

GALLERY: THE TRIAL, IN PHOTOS

Michael Rafferty, 31, who spent much of his trial rolling his eyes at evidence or muttering to himself, was far less animated late Friday night after a jury found him guilty of first-degree murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm and kidnapping. Rafferty simply closed his eyes, sat down, and leaned his head against the wall of the prisoner's box.

His sentencing is scheduled to begin next Tuesday.

A life behind bars now awaits Rafferty — first-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years. It's the same fate Terri-Lynne McClintic, the other half of the "murderous duo," as the Crown called them, accepted two years ago when she pleaded guilty to first-degree murder.

Evidence that was kept from the jury about Rafferty's sordid sexual appetites, past bickering amongst members of Tori's family, and lingering questions about whether Rafferty or McClintic dealt the death blows, all faded away as the last known photo of Tori was raised above the din of the post-verdict courthouse commotion.

"I wanted to scream, scream something in the courtroom, but we just couldn't do it," Rodney Stafford said. "Happy, excitement, but at the same time there was a sense of loss because Tori's not coming home. But we got it. We got the justice."

It has been a long road for Tori's family filled not with ups and downs but rather plummets and plateaus. The first hours and days after Tori vanished at 3:32 p.m. on April 8, 2009, were filled with panic. The days then turned into weeks with no real news, until the family's worst fears were confirmed on May 19, when police told them 18-year-old McClintic had confessed, and that Tori was dead.

It would be two more months of being told that Tori was dead, but having no body to fully convince them, especially her father. Then on July 19, a police officer finally found Tori's badly beaten and severely decomposed remains, wrapped in garbage bags and buried under a pile of rocks in a secluded farmer's field near Mount Forest, Ont.

The body had been hidden about 130 kilometres from Tori's home in Woodstock, Ont., where she was last captured on surveillance video, walking away from school with a slight bounce in her step, and McClintic at her side.

Little more than a year after McClintic lured Tori to her death she pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and revealed sickening details about what she said Rafferty did to the child. The courtroom was packed with family, investigators and reporters, but the veil of secrecy the judge imposed to ensure a fair trial for Rafferty prevented even a whisper of the proceedings from being published.

About seven months after Tori's family heard the awful details of her last hours, the publication ban was partially lifted, and the circumstances surrounding her abduction, as well as McClintic's admitted involvement, became public information.

Then, on March 5 of this year Rafferty's trial began, and the Stafford family had to suffer through agonizing testimony that returned them to their darkest days. Many of them sat through the entire trial, bearing witness to the details of Tori's brutal last moments.

It was alleged that Rafferty's sexual gratification was the motive for murder, but the jury didn't know there was evidence that he had sought out child pornography videos and made dozens of searches for images of violent child rape.

Months of decomposition also destroyed any hope of finding scientific evidence of rape. But the jurors still concluded that Tori, who was found naked from the waist down with most of her ribs fractured and her skull shattered by hammer blows, had been sexually assaulted.

McClintic told the trial a horrifying story of a drug-addled couple abducting a young girl at random for the man's sexual pleasure, then killing her with almost inconceivable brutality.

The Crown suggested Rafferty used McClintic, who was no stranger to violence but also desperate to believe she had finally found a good man, as a pawn to do his perverse bidding.

McClintic testified relatively early in the trial, and though much of it was interrupted by various legal motions, her story was still gut-churning. Her cross-examination revealed a chilling side to the "bloodthirsty" young woman when Rafferty's lawyer read several letters McClintic wrote to a jailhouse friend in which she detailed her fantasies about torturing people.

Rafferty himself remained largely an enigma to the jury, as the only glimpse of his personality came toward the end of the trial when a stream of former girlfriends took the stand. Twenty-two women from Rafferty's past, including 15 women he dated in the spring of 2009, were called to testify about various things he said and the state of his car.

If the sheer volume of past girlfriends didn't shock the jury, testimony from the longest serving girlfriend certainly might have. Charity Spitzig, a mother of four, said that in the six months before he was arrested in May 2009, she gave Rafferty $16,835.

Though the Crown explained without the jury present that Spitzig had been instructed not to say where the money came from, she nevertheless testified that she earned it working as an escort.

And while that was just the tip of the iceberg of information police had reflecting Rafferty in a very poor light, it was all the jury actually heard.

Heeney ruled the search of Rafferty's laptop unconstitutional, so jurors did not know there was evidence that he'd done Internet searches for "real underage rape," "nude preteen," and other queries suggestive of a sexual interest in children. They also didn't know that police found evidence Rafferty had downloaded "substantial" amounts of child pornography and snuff films, including one with a title indicating it involved a child.

A lot of material deemed "bad character" evidence was kept from the jurors because of the legal principle that just because someone is a bad person, it doesn't necessarily mean they committed the offence in question.

A woman Rafferty met online alleged in a police report that he drugged, choked and raped her, but he was never charged. In fact, several of his dates said Rafferty had a penchant for sexual choking. Some also complained of his "disconcerting" behaviour toward their children, the Crown said.

No one will ever know whether the jurors believed it was Rafferty or McClintic who wielded the hammer, whether they thought the abduction was random or targeted, or whether the sequence of events was planned — but the end result was the same for Tori.

The eight-year-old wearing her mom's butterfly earrings was unwittingly led to her death on that sunny April day with a skip in her step.

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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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