LONDON, Ont. - Of the myriad problems Terri-Lynne McClintic presented for the Crown lawyers at Michael Rafferty's murder trial, one stood out above all others: how do you call your star witness a liar?
WARNING: Graphic details from this court case may disturb some readers.
On the witness stand, McClintic told a disturbing tale of how — egged on by Rafferty — she kidnapped Victoria Stafford outside her school in Woodstock, Ont., before driving to a secluded rural spot where Rafferty raped the eight-year-old girl.
That was all true, the Crown asserted. Many of the details in her story were independently verified. But when it came down to declaring who was responsible for inflicting the blows that killed Tori, that was a different matter.
At first McClintic said it was Rafferty. Now she says it was her. But there are several differences in the two versions of events — some significant, others less so — which led the judge to conclude it's much more likely her original story is the truth.
In determining how to present that to the jury, the lawyers took several days to argue various legal motions without the jury present. The many iterations of McClintic's version of the events of April 8, 2009, were put on display.
When she was interviewed by police on April 12, McClintic said she had been in the area of Tori's school that day, but was not the woman in a white coat who was seen on surveillance video walking away with the little girl. A month later, she said the same thing.
But on May 19 — after taking a lie detector test she believes she failed, but didn't — McClintic's original version of events began to take shape. She admitted to being the woman in the surveillance video, but was vague about the killing. She walked away from Rafferty's car during the rape, she said, and when she came back, Tori was gone.
Her full confession came May 24 in a weepy, six-hour interview. She described seeing Tori lying partially clothed on the ground before Rafferty put a garbage bag over the girl's head and kicked and stomped her. Eventually, she said, he hit the girl with a hammer.
McClintic goes into even more graphic detail in a 17-page letter she wrote in October, saying she recalled more about April 8 after temporarily going off medication for bipolar disorder.
Some of the details are mundane, such as how her sunglasses nearly fell off her head while reaching for a garbage bag.
Others are horrifying: During the kicking and stomping, she recalled, Rafferty shouted, "Holy (expletive), why won't you die?"
The letter, along with McClintic's May 24 confession, formed the basis for the agreed statement of facts read out in court when she pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in April 2010.
"Most of the people supporting me have said that I'm insane for pleading guilty to murder when I didn't inflict death on anyone," she said at the time.
"My actions are what put that child into the hands of death."
Between the plea and Rafferty's trial, which started with pre-trial motions on Jan. 16, 2012, police and the Crown worked hard to assemble their case against Rafferty. Two days before the motions were to begin, McClintic threw a wrench into their plans.
It was her, not Rafferty, who killed the little girl, she told a counsellor. She no longer wanted to testify at the trial. She offered police no details, saying, "the only thing that changes is that it was me and not him."
"Same way I told you before," McClintic said. "A hammer.... All you need to know is he's not guilty and he didn't have anything to do with killing her."
Why, police wondered, would you tell the counsellor this now?
"I don't know, just things have been playing on my mind a lot and she kept poking at me asking me what, what, well what are you thinking about?" McClintic said.
"I was on a bunch of my medication and I guess it just came out."
Rafferty's defence suggests that not only was McClintic the actual killer, she engineered the kidnapping over a drug debt, and that she offered Tori to Rafferty sexually, but he declined.
Rafferty has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm and kidnapping.
When McClintic testified at Rafferty's trial, the details of the killing that she described on May 24, 2009, were back in the story. This time, however, she was the killer, not her boyfriend.
The Crown wanted to be able to play a relevant portion of McClintic's May 24 statement for the jury, so they could see and hear her tearful confession for themselves. Anything short of that, Crown attorney Michael Carnegie argued, would be "gutting the Crown theory."
The Crown wanted to "impeach the credibility" of its own witness, as the judge put it. Essentially, the Crown had to apply to be able to cross-examine their own witness and suggest her current version of events was not entirely true.
Eventually, Superior Court Judge Thomas Heeney ruled there was "simply no question" McClintic's new assertion about who killed Tori was "inconsistent in a very major and dramatic sense, going to the very core of her evidence."
Excerpts of the May 24 interview were played for the jury, though they were told initially that they could only use it to assess McClintic's credibility.
McClintic explained that she previously blamed the death on Rafferty because she wasn't mentally ready to accept that she had killed a child. She had genuinely believed it had been him, she said.
During his cross-examination of McClintic, Crown lawyer Kevin Gowdey noted that she'd originally told police she didn't know how often Tori had been struck because she closed her eyes and turned away during the killing.
If her new version of events was true, she ought to know how many blows were delivered, Gowdey argued.
"So your efforts to implicate Mr. Rafferty were thought through so carefully that you would make up a story that wouldn't even have the exact number of blows?" Gowdey asked. "Is that what you're saying?"
"I guess so," McClintic replied.
Without the May 24 video as evidence, the Crown would be hamstrung in its ability to present a theory that Rafferty physically killed Tori, Carnegie later argued.
Carnegie suggested that another, seemingly minor, difference between McClintic's May 24 statement and her testimony at trial speaks volumes about the credibility of one story versus the other.
Clear bottle caps, like the ones on water bottles found in Rafferty's car upon arrest, were in the garbage bag containing Tori's remains. When she testified, McClintic said Rafferty washed himself after Tori's remains had been buried under a pile of rocks.
The only way the bottle caps could end up inside the bag, however, would be if Rafferty cleaned himself off after the sexual assault, but before Tori's body was hidden, Carnegie said — a scenario consistent with McClintic's original version of events.
In order for Heeney to allow the Crown to play the May 24 video as evidence he had to assess its reliability. The fact that McClintic's original story put her at risk of being convicted of first-degree murder made it "much more probable" it was true.
"This is not a situation where she was merely pointing the finger at the accused as the perpetrator," Heeney said.
"She provided enough information against herself in the May 24th statement to ensure her own conviction....Why would she do that unless it were true?"
The new version of events is far less reliable, Heeney concluded.
In her new statement to police, she implies that if she is forced to testify, they might not like what she would have to say, Heeney noted. McClintic also testified that she once told Rafferty she would take the fall for him, he added.
"One could draw the inference that making the statement on Jan. 14, 2012, was the fulfillment of that promise," Heeney said.
Heeney decided to let the jury see the May 24 statement as evidence, and leave it to jurors to assess both versions of McClintic's story.
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
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
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
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)
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.
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