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2012 Canada Crime Stories: Looking Back At The Year's Darkest Chapters

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MICHAEL RAFFERTY
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 daughters murder in London Ontario,Tuesday, March 13, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Geoff Robins | CP

"Their solution," the Crown attorney told a rapt courtroom in Kingston, Ontario, "was to remove the diseased limb entirely and prune the tree back to the good wood."

That's how Laurie Lacelle described the murder of three teen sisters at the hands of their parents and older brother.

For patriarch Mohammad Shafia, his wife Tooba Yahya and their son Hamed Mohammad Shafia, society was the disease. And images on their daughters' cell phones — all dressed up in smiles and what you might expect girls their age to wear — was all too much.

Restoring honour turned out to be murder.

On June 30, 2009, a black Nissan Sentra was found at the bottom of a Kingston canal. Sisters Zainab, Sahar, and Geeti Shafia, along with their mother Rona Amir Mohammed were found dead inside.

On January 29, 2012, a jury found Shafia, his second wife and their son guilty on four counts of first-degree murder.

For a Canadian public that had followed every dark twist revealed during the trial, the 'disease' turned out to be the warped sense of honour that allowed parents to snuff out the lives of their own children.

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THE TRIAL, IN PHOTOS

The Shafia case wasn't the only headline-snatching horror of 2012.

And while we puzzled over one family's 'honour', the motives in other cases were even less scrutable.

Like the brutality visited upon a Calgary man at the hands of 32-year-old Dustin Paxton.

On April 16, 2010, a young man was dropped off at a Regina hospital. Severely malnourished, bruised and broken, his bottom lip had been nearly torn off completely.

Paxton was charged in connection with a long-running series of attacks in Regina and Calgary on the man, who cannot be named under a publication ban.

Asked in court to describe Paxton, the victim summed him up simply:

"Evil. He's smart, mean, twisted. I would do anything not to get beaten any more."

A judge seemed to agree. Justice Sheilah Martin determined that Paxton had beaten and starved his ex-roommate regularly.

"I find there is evidence of wounding, maiming, disfiguring and his life was in danger on two occasions," she said in her decision.

As the Calgary Herald reports, Paxton's sentence is on hold while a court hears the results of a psychiatric assessment.

And then there was Michael Rafferty. The Toronto man was convicted of kidnapping, sexually assaulting and murdering eight-year-old Tori Stafford.

Indeed, his deeds were so dark a Superior Court judge could hardly restrain his rage.

"You have snuffed out the life of a beautiful, talented, vivacious little girl, a 'tomboy diva' in the trustful innocence of childhood," judge Thomas Heeney said during sentencing. "And for what? So that you could gratify your twisted and deviant desire to have sex with a child. Only a monster could commit an act of such pure evil."

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The Tori Stafford Trial, In Photos
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MICHAEL RAFFERTY SENTENCING
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If an entire city could count itself a victim, it would have been Toronto last summer, as it found itself under siege from a spate of seemingly random and certainly senseless shootings.

On June 2, gunfire at the iconic Eaton Centre sent shoppers fleeing in horror. By the end of the day, six innocent bystanders had been wounded, including a 13-year-old boy. And one man, Ahmed Hassan, was dead.

Police would soon charge 23-year-old Christopher Husbands with one count of first-degree murder and six counts of attempted murder.

But the 'Summer of the Gun' was not over.

A month later, a block party in the city's east end fell under a hail of bullets.

In all, two people were killed — 14-year-old Shyanne Charles and 23-year-old Joshua Yasay — and 23 others were sent to hospital.

Deadly shootings seem to ring out throughout the rest of the summer, including a brazen execution-style slaying in Little Italy, sparking fears that Canadian cities were spiraling into gangland violence.

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East-End Toronto Shooting
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Any list of violent crime in 2012 would be hard-pressed to exclude Luka Magnotta.

A small-time porn actor — with a seemingly insatiable appetite for celebrity — Magnotta stands accused of dismembering Chinese student Jun Lin and sending his body parts to various parts of the country by mail.

But the 29-year-old's name has already darkened too many headlines this year to earn another inch in this space.

Check the gallery below for some of the year's most tragic chapters.

2012: The Darkest Moments
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