With a rhetorical flourish, the Crown wrapped up closing arguments in its case against Michael Rafferty Wednesday, telling the jury that the defence theory as to how and why eight-year-old Victoria (Tori) Stafford was murdered is just that: a theory, with not a shred of evidence to support it.
On Thursday, Mr. Justice Thomas Heeney will start delivering his charge to the jury, after which it will begin its deliberations.
For two days, Crown attorney Kevin Gowdey laid out the thesis of the four-member prosecution team, concluding his remarks with the same language he used at the outset to describe the roles of Mr. Rafferty and his one-time girlfriend in Tori's brutal death three years ago;
It was all planned and all deliberate, he said. “Michael Rafferty and Terri-Lynne McClintic were in this together, together they did this to Tori Stafford, and together they are guilty.”
Mr. Rafferty, 31, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm and abduction.
He and Ms. McClintic were charged in May, 2009, six weeks after Ms. McClintic, by her own admission, lured the child from her Woodstock school to Mr. Rafferty's car, which was parked nearby. With Tori concealed in the back, the trio then drove to a secluded patch of woods near Mount Forest, 130 kilometres away.
In July of that year, after a massive search, her beaten body was finally discovered. Blunt-force blows to the skull were the cause of death, the autopsy found, but her remains were too decomposed to show whether she had been raped.
Now 21, Ms. McClintic subsequently confessed to murder, and two years ago she was sentenced to life imprisonment.
But weeks before Mr. Rafferty's trial began in March, she altered her account of events in one key regard: She said that she – not Mr. Rafferty – wielded the hammer that killed Tori.
And in his own closing statement to the jurors Monday, defence lawyer Dirk Derstine urged them to believe not only that Ms. McClintic abducted and killed Tori, to resolve an unspecified “drug debt,” but that she was the author of the entire crime.
He offered no evidence to support his argument, however, preferring to dwell on Ms. McClintic's violent, crime-drenched past, and on Wednesday Mr. Gowdey told the jury the defence theory was built upon nothing.
“It may well be that [Ms. McClintic]was capable of murder,” he said. “But she was just as adamant that this was all Mr. Rafferty's plan, and she never strayed from that.”
The two partners-in-crime were well suited to each other, Mr. Gowdey said, but it was inconceivable that Ms. McClintic, 10 years younger than the confident, manipulative boyfriend she appeared to adore – “a man at the top of his game,” as he put it – was the driving force in events.
In the hours and days after Tori died, Mr. Rafferty displayed numerous signs of suspicious behaviour linking him to Tori's murder, Mr. Gowdey said, and he listed 20 that had “the ring of truth.”
Above all, he said, when Ms. McClintic initially told police that it was Mr. Rafferty who beat the little girl to death with the claw hammer, she was likely being forthright.
For a second time, jurors watched portions of a police video, made five days after Ms. McClintic was charged in Tori’s death, in which she gave a horrifying eyewitness account of how Mr. Rafferty raped Tori in his car and then began kicking and stomping her and swinging the hammer.
Weeping profusely in the interview room, she described to Detective Staff-Sergeant Jim Smyth of the Ontario Provincial Police how Tori cried out for help as she was being abused, and how she did nothing.
“I could hear her calling out to me, ‘T,T,’” she told him. “My nephew calls me T.”
Ms. McClintic's conflicting accounts of events have presented difficulties for both sides.
To secure an acquittal, the jury must accept Mr. Derstine's contention that while Ms. McClintic is telling the truth about who used the hammer, she is lying about almost everything else. But the Crown, too, has had to ask the jury to separate fact from fiction.
Mr. Gowdey reiterated its position that regardless of who inflicted the fatal blows, both defendants are equally guilty of murder.
“I’ll expect you’ll find she lied about some things,” he said of Ms. McClintic.
But he stressed that her original story seems more plausible than her later one, first aired in January of this year, because it contained telling details that otherwise make no sense.
He listed numerous pieces of Ms. McClintic’s original narrative of events on the day Tori was slain, April 8, 2009, that have been corroborated by other evidence. Much of that evidence consists of assorted video clips from along the route that she, Mr. Rafferty and Tori travelled after the child was kidnapped.
But there were other key things she said, too. In her confession to Det. Staff-Sgt. Smyth, for example, she said that when she and Mr. Rafferty buried Tori under a pile of rocks, the child was naked from the waist down, which is how she was found.
“Be convinced in this case by evidence,” Mr. Gowdey concluded. “Don't be distracted by things that are not evidence.”
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