As Michael Rafferty drove away from Woodstock, Ont. with a terrified Tori Stafford hidden in the back seat of his Honda Civic, he pulled the battery out of his BlackBerry. This detail was proffered at his trial by his then-girlfriend Terri-Lynne McClintic, who was riding shotgun, to suggest he knew police could use his phone to track his movements.
But later that day, he popped the battery back in, sent text messages and made several phone calls – including one near the spot where Tori was beaten to death with a hammer and left beneath a pile of rocks. That call would lead police straight to Tori’s body.
This episode was typical of Mr. Rafferty’s behaviour in the wake of the crime: He was smart enough to know he had to cover his tracks, but not smart enough to grasp how to do it correctly. More often than not, it seems, he lacked the discipline to follow through.
This dichotomy was also emblematic of Mr. Rafferty’s life. He presented well, a clean-cut, physically fit young man who liked to dance. But beneath this charming facade was a ne’er-do-well who drifted from job to job, popped pills and had little to show for his life.
If there was one thing he was good at, it seems, it was using women. He dated several simultaneously, promising some exclusive relationships only to sleep around. He relied on his many girlfriends to provide the things he wanted, whether money, a place to stay or the OxyContin and Percocet he was addicted to.
There were also traces of a greater darkness: On his laptop were pornographic videos of children and alarming Google searches for things such as “real underage rape.”
Mr. Rafferty was born Oct. 26, 1980, the youngest of three boys. He once wrote online that he was originally from the Yukon, but lived in numerous towns across Southern Ontario. He spent at least some of his childhood with an aunt and uncle in Drayton, a small village near Kitchener, Ont., and later told a girlfriend that he grew up in a farmhouse.
For part of high school, he attended Alexander Mackenzie in Richmond Hill, a suburb of Toronto. Afterward, he lived in the trendy Queen Street West area and, he said, studied cooking at community college.
At some point, Mr. Rafferty moved to Guelph, where he worked at a landscaping company and a meatpacking plant. During this time, he acquired that car, a blue sedan crudely spray-painted black – his prized possession. He kept the interior immaculate and took it to car washes a couple of times a week. One of the women he dated, Rachel Diwell, would tell his trial that, for fun, they would drive aimlessly in the countryside.
“We never had a destination of where we were going, he really liked to drive his car,” testified Ms. Diwell, who met Mr. Rafferty through an ex-boyfriend and dated him shortly after her 18th birthday in 2007. “He always seemed to know where he was going.”
Besides driving, she said, they spent their time going to casinos and movies, walking trails or pulling over on secluded roads to have sex in his car.
By early 2008, he had split up with Ms. Diwell, lost his job and moved into the Woodstock home of his mother, Deborah Murphy, and her boyfriend, David Riddell, a well-kept semi-detached on a quiet residential street. That summer, he worked with his brother, Jonathan Cundy, doing landscaping and other contract work in the Toronto suburb of Oakville. He met a woman there and moved in with her for a time. When their relationship ended, he returned to Woodstock.
It’s not clear how or when Mr. Rafferty became addicted to drugs, but he had a serious habit, taking several potent 80-milligram pills of OxyContin every day and frequently popping Percocet as well. The latter drug he obtained from Barb Armstrong, a woman he had dated after meeting at the meatpacking plant.