London Community News
Warning: Graphic Content
By Raveena Aulakh/Torstar News Service
London, Ont. — The bombshell came when least expected.
On Jan. 13, 2012, Terri-Lynne McClintic, an inmate at the Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener, went to see her counsellor and confessed that she, not her former lover Michael Rafferty, killed Tori Stafford. The counsellor called police and McClintic gave a new statement.
That day drastically altered the course of one of Ontario’s most-anticipated trials.
But if the Crown lawyers — three men and one woman — were rattled by this drastic turn of events, they didn’t show it when they walked into a courtroom six weeks later for the start of the Rafferty’s trial. (Their part of the evidence finally wrapped up Thursday.
McClintic’s testimony still formed the foundation of the Crown’s case against Rafferty. She maintained everything else in her statement was true, that she lured Tori because Rafferty told her to, and that they went to a secluded spot near Mount Forest, where he raped the 8-year-old girl twice.
And so, for eight weeks, the Crown meticulously lined up evidence, including forensics, against Rafferty. In his opening address, Crown Kevin Gowdey asserted that Tori was kicked, raped and killed, her body left under a pile of rocks — and that it was a crime committed in tandem by McClintic and Rafferty. Who specifically did what to that child was irrelevant, he suggested.
Tori was abducted on April 8, 2009, on her way home from school in Woodstock. McClintic and Rafferty, then lovers, were arrested and charged a month later. Tori’s remains were found near Mount Forest that July. McClintic pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in April 2010.
In the eight weeks of Rafferty’s trial, the jury has heard from 61 witnesses, seen hundreds of photos, and watched a lot of surveillance video. Fifteen of those witnesses were women Rafferty dated in the spring of 2009.
All to prove McClintic’s story.
It began with the Crown placing Rafferty`s car in the neighbourhood of Tori’s school that day. Through a series of surveillance videos, the Crown showed Rafferty’s dark Honda Civic near Oliver Stephens Public School at 3:30 p.m. At about 5 p.m., the car was at a Petro-Canada station, where Rafferty went in to withdraw money from an ATM. Minutes later, McClintic went into the nearby Home Depot, where she bought garbage bags and a claw hammer.
The video corroborated McClintic’s testimony about events of that day.
One of the few witnesses from that day was Barbara Armstrong, 44, of Guelph, who testified she sold Percocet, an addictive painkiller, to Rafferty. She remembered seeing a dark-haired young woman in his car when he stopped by her house at about 4:30 p.m.
Then there were copious phone records.
Rafferty’s BlackBerry was placed near phone towers in Woodstock, Guelph, Mount Forest, Cambridge and Drumbo the day Tori was abducted. It corroborated what McClintic had said: That after she lured Tori to Rafferty’s car, they went to Guelph, then travelled Highway 6 through Arthur and Fergus, stopping at a secluded spot near Mount Forest where Tori was raped and bludgeoned. After leaving her under a pile of rocks, she said, the two returned to Woodstock via Highway 401, stopping at a self-serve car wash in Cambridge.
But it was forensics that provided, perhaps, the single most important evidence: a mixed sample of DNA found in Rafferty’s gym bag.
Bloodstains on the bottom were found to contain a mix of DNA from three people, two of those from Rafferty and Tori. A scientist with the Centre for Forensic Sciences said the chance the DNA was from anyone other than Tori was 1 in 28 billion.
But Tori’s body was so badly decomposed it offered no proof of rape.
The hammer, the weapon that killed Tori, was never found.
After the girl was dead, McClintic testified that Rafferty washed himself with water from plastic bottles. Two bottle caps were found along with Tori`s body, in garbage bags.
McClinic also said on the stand that Rafferty put her white jacket, his shirt and pants, Tori’s clothes, her Bratz bag and the hammer into garbage bags and tossed them into the trunk of the car. The two got into the car and drove for a bit, but McClintic said Rafferty quickly pulled into a nearby side road and told her to toss her shoes out; he threw his out, too.
McClintic’s shoes, blue Shaq runners, were found by a woman who lives in the area. (The garbage bags, with the hammer, were dumped at a car wash in Cambridge.)
The Crown has also tried to prove that the abduction was Rafferty’s idea, that he was not the horrified bystander his lawyer has made him out to be.
(Dirk Derstine, Rafferty’s lawyer, suggested to McClintic that she abducted Tori for a drug debt and then offered her as a sexual gift to Rafferty; that he refused and she bludgeoned the child.)
The parade of Rafferty’s ex-girlfriends gave a different account of him. He was having BBM or phone text conversations with at least three women on the day of the murder, and he had sex with one woman at his Woodstock home the day after.
Over the next few days, he met more women on the online dating site Plenty of Fish. Some he went out with; others he chatted with on the phone or on email.
Rafferty not only talked to McClinic almost every day after she was arrested on April 12, on outstanding warrants, but also visited her at the Genest Detention Centre in London, where he was listed as McClintic’s boyfriend.
Video surveillance from Genest shows them frolicking, laughing and joking on two occasions.
What the Crown tried to say, without ever using the words: Was this the behaviour of a man who recently was a shocked bystander to the brutal murder of a child?
The Crown’s case against Rafferty took eight weeks to unfold and wrapped up Thursday.
Next week, the defence gets its turn. The question is whether Rafferty will testify.