LONDON, Ont. - The powerful and angry words of the judge presiding over Michael Rafferty's case rang through the courtroom Tuesday — "twisted," "deviant," "child rapist" — but it was the words of Victoria Stafford's brother that left the largest impact, even on the "monster" himself.
When eight-year-old Tori was abducted on April 8, 2009, her brother Daryn was just 10 years old. Several of Tori's family members gave victim impact statements at Rafferty's formal sentencing, talking about the pain her death has caused, but they all kept coming back to Daryn, the big brother who feels he was supposed to protect Tori.
"No hugs, no 'See you later,' no goodbyes, just a part of my heart ripped out," Daryn wrote in his statement. "My sister was the only person I had to talk to, someone that felt what I felt, cried when I cried, laughed when I laughed, and now I feel alone, like the world is playing a sick trick on me. But it's not. This is my reality."
Rafferty, who was found guilty on Friday of first-degree murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm and kidnapping, cried and wiped tears from his eyes as a Crown attorney read Daryn's statement.
Rafferty was asked if he had anything to say before being sentenced to life in prison, the automatic penalty for first-degree murder. He stood up and addressed Tori's mother Tara McDonald directly, saying he would give her "all the pieces of the puzzle," if she wanted to hear them away from the court, members of the media and spectators.
She said outside court she would not be taking him up on his offer.
Rafferty did not testify in his own defence, leaving only his former girlfriend and accomplice Terri-Lynne McClintic's account of what happened the day Tori was killed. He said Tuesday that he is "guilty of many crimes" and has done things he is "very, very ashamed of," but maintained he is not guilty of those three crimes. At trial his lawyer had suggested McClintic was responsible for what happened to Tori.
"I do believe that I am a very definite part of why Victoria's not here today," Rafferty said Tuesday.
"Hopefully, everybody can find some closure of some sort to me being sentenced to life. I'm truly sorry to the entire family, not that it has much bearing to any of you coming from my mouth, but it's still true."
Rafferty's words rang hollow not only to the family, as they said later, but also to Superior Court Judge Thomas Heeney, who ordered Rafferty to stand up as he said now that the presumption of innocence has been stripped away, it has been revealed who Rafferty truly is: "a child abductor, a child rapist and a child murderer."
"You have snuffed out the life of a beautiful, talented, vivacious little girl, a 'tomboy diva,' in the trustful innocence of childhood," Heeney said, seething with anger. "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."
"You, sir, are a monster."
Rafferty was led out of the courtroom to a life behind bars. He will be eligible to apply for parole after serving 25 years. He has been in custody since May 19, 2009. Rafferty will, however, be able to apply for the so-called faint-hope clause after serving 15 years. He was also sentenced to 10 years to be served concurrently for sexual assault causing bodily harm and kidnapping.
The courtroom was packed with family members and reporters, and even nine members of the jury returned to see Rafferty be sent to prison for life. They appeared emotional after the victim impact statements, particularly Daryn's.
Crown attorney Stephanie Venne read Daryn's statement, in which he notes one of the questions on the form asks "Was anything taken from you?"
"It's obviously asking about property, but something was taken from me," Daryn wrote. "My baby sister was taken from me and that's not something I can go buy at a store to replace."
The last time he saw Tori was at school that day and they were arguing as brothers and sisters do. When they parted, he didn't know it would be the last time he ever saw her.
"It was weird because it felt like something was wrong," he wrote. "I could feel it. Now I am lost without her, trying to move on without my baby sister and best friend."
Victoria's father, Rodney Stafford, spoke about the agonizing time between when Tori vanished and when her remains were finally found in July 2009, wrapped in garbage bags and buried under a pile of rocks in a farmer's field far from her Woodstock, Ont., home.
He stared at Rafferty as he read his statement and unable to control his anger, looked up from reading his prepared words, fixed his gaze on Rafferty and called him a "piece of s**t."
"Now our only means of communicating with Victoria is tearful whispers through her headstone where her remains were laid to rest," Stafford said. "You could not imagine the painful sorrow you feel standing at your eight-year-old child's gravesite in order to say hi instead of just being able to hold her in your arms and hold her tight."
Tori's mother was not able to hold back tears as she spoke of the pain of missing her baby.
"People say how strong I am," she wept. "They wonder how I've made it through what they think they couldn't. But what choice do I really have? It pales in comparison to the pain that was inflicted on an innocent little girl."
Members of Tori's family sat through every day of the 10-week trial, listening to graphic testimony and seeing photographs of the little one's badly decomposed remains. Losing a child under any circumstance is painful, they said, but those lasting images will forever compound their grief.
"I have been exposed to information and photographs which have now altered my lasting memories of my niece," said Tori's aunt Rebecca Nichols. "Instead of her beautiful blue eyes and her smile, her laugh, the first image I see when I hear her name is a forensics photograph."
Rafferty will join McClintic, his ex-lover and partner in the gruesome crime, in being sentenced to life in prison. She pleaded guilty two years ago to first-degree murder, admitting she lured Tori away with the promise of seeing a dog and delivered the child to Rafferty for repeated sexual assaults.
The jurors went to the judge with several questions about the sexual assault charge during their 10 hours of deliberations. It was alleged that Rafferty's sexual gratification was the motive behind the murder, but the jury didn't know there was evidence that he sought out hours of child pornography videos and made dozens of searches for images of violent child rape.
Heeney has faced criticism from some for his decision to exclude that evidence, and he took time to explain his decision Tuesday. Evidence about someone's bad character is inadmissible for a reason, Heeney said, and that is because in this country people are judged not by their "deviant nature," but by their actions.
"Being a pervert does not mean that he is a murderer," Heeney said. The jury convicted Rafferty based on "solid, admissible and overwhelming evidence" that was directly relevant to his "heinous deeds."
No one will ever know whether the jury believed if Rafferty or McClintic wielded the hammer that killed the girl, whether they thought McClintic orchestrated the sick plot and Rafferty helped or vice versa, whether they thought the abduction was random or targeted, or whether the sequence of events was planned all along — but the end result was the same for little Tori.
Whether Tori knew McClintic or she was lured away with talk of a dog, the eight-year-old with butterfly earrings and a skip in her step was still unwittingly led to her death on a sunny April day after school.
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