Warning: This story contains graphic details
Michael Rafferty’s voluminous cellphone records went under a microscope on Thursday as the jury at his murder trial listened to a Bell Canada data analyst connect dots on the afternoon and evening that eight-year-old Victoria (Tori) Stafford was kidnapped and beaten to death.
And while just a few of the records were of direct relevance, the remarkable number of calls Mr. Rafferty placed that day, and in the subsequent weeks before his arrest, suggested, as the trial has already heard, that his secretive life largely revolved around his constantly thumbed BlackBerry.
Twelve voice and data calls – chiefly text messages – were of particular interest to prosecutor Michael Carnegie, spanning the period from 12:06 p.m. – roughly 3 1/2 hours before Tori was kidnapped outside her Woodstock, Ont., school on April 8, 2009 – until 11:37 p.m. that night.
Records retrieved from the network of cellphone towers across Central and Southern Ontario showed that Mr. Rafferty’s BlackBerry left an electronic footprint corresponding closely to the route he and his co-accused, Terri-Lynne McClintic, are alleged to have taken after Tori was abducted and driven away to her death.
That was just a fraction of the calls he placed that day. Before noon, they totalled more than 40, and in addition were dozens of “PIN-number” entries – more private, person-to-person BlackBerry text messages, routed through the Research in Motion headquarters in Waterloo, Ont., and chiefly dispatched to women he knew.
The topic was clearly of great interest to the defendant. When his alleged crimes were being described, he sat through much of the testimony apparently bored. But on Thursday, as during much of this week’s evidence, Mr. Rafferty, 31, sat in the prisoner’s box scribbling notes furiously, heightening speculation that he plans to testify in his own defence.
In a joint submission to Judge Thomas Heeney, Crown and defence agreed that the number attributed to Mr. Rafferty’s BlackBerry was indeed his, and that there were no phone-network problems at the time.
Cellphone records can be inexact, the trial heard: The nearest tower may not be the one that connects to the device, and a particular tower denotes only approximately where the call originates, not where the caller might be when it ends.
Cellphone records have, nonetheless, become a crucial tool in police efforts to piece together a suspect’s movements.
In this instance, it was a 7:47 p.m. voice call from Mr. Rafferty’s BlackBerry, connecting with a tower near Mount Forest, near where Tori’s body was eventually found, that first pointed detectives in that direction.
The other 11 calls – five voice calls, six data calls – showed that after leaving Woodstock that afternoon, he was next in the Guelph area, where he and Ms. McClintic allegedly bought a hammer, garbage bags and drugs.
From there he headed north toward the small towns of Arthur, Fergus and Mount Forest, the records show.
After Tori’s murder, he and Ms. McClintic then headed back south again and returned to Woodstock, which Ms. McClintic estimated was between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m.
During that period, there was a gap of about 45 minutes, from 4:18 p.m. to 5:03 p.m., when it can be shown that the BlackBerry was switched off, Mr. Broad agreed under cross-examination by Mr. Rafferty’s lawyer, Dirk Derstine.
Mr. Rafferty has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, kidnapping and sexual assault causing bodily harm in Tori’s death.
Two years ago, Ms. McClintic, now 21, confessed to murdering the little girl and is serving life imprisonment at the Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener.
Since being convicted, she has altered her account of events in one key regard: Ms. McClintic insists that Mr. Rafferty raped Tori, drove the trio to the crime scene and helped conceal the body, but that it was she who wielded the murder weapon – the hammer, bought in Guelph en route to Mount Forest.
The trial resumes on Friday.