Warning: This story contains graphic details
The prosecution in the Michael Rafferty murder trial is wrapping up its case with an elaborate video-analysis presentation that places Mr. Rafferty’s car close to the Woodstock school where eight-year-old Victoria (Tori) Stafford was kidnapped three years ago, at around the same time she vanished.
In the witness box is Gerald Lanna, a civilian forensic video specialist attached to the Ontario Provincial Police.
In comparing Mr. Rafferty’s 2003 Honda Civic to security video of a similar vehicle, retrieved from an Esso gas station near Oliver Stephens Public School, from where Tori was abducted, Mr. Lanna testified that one feature stood out: An air-intake unit mounted on the front hood.
Hondas of that year and make do not have such an air-intake he said; it would have to have been custom-installed.
In concert with other features shared by the two cars, including an unusual spoiler mounted on the back, tinted rear windows and wrap-around taillights, “I would have to say that’s our vehicle,” he said.
Other video clips central to the investigation are compelling but not conclusive, the jury heard, These include footage of a suspicious vehicle cruising the street outside the school, and assorted images of co-accused Terri-Lynne McClintic in a puffy white coat similar to the one she wore when, by her own admission, she lured Tori to Mr. Rafferty’s car.
Mr. Lanna is the 61st and final prosecution witness in the trial, now in its eighth week.
Mr. Rafferty, 31, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, abduction and sexual assault causing bodily harm in Tori’s death. Her body was found in a patch of woods near Mount Forest, 110 kilometres away from Woodstock, more than three months after she disappeared in April 2009. The defence will begin making its case next week.
Among the lawyers, police, reporters and spectators who have been in the courtroom, opinion is divided over whether Mr. Rafferty will testify. His lawyer, Dirk Derstine, has given no indication either way.
If Mr. Rafferty does go into the witness box, days of examination and cross-examination are likely, with the events surrounding Tori’s brutal death sure to be revisited in detail.
If he does not, closing arguments may begin as soon as next Thursday, with the case going to the jury the following week.
Two years ago, Ms. McClintic, now 21, admitted murdering Tori and is serving a life term at the Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener.
A few weeks before Mr. Rafferty’s trial began in March, however, Ms. McClintic altered her account of events in one key regard.
She reaffirmed that Mr. Rafferty drove the trio to the crime scene, raped Tori there and helped hide the body.
But now she contends that it was she who wielded the murder weapon – a claw-head hammer she bought in Guelph on the afternoon of the kidnapping.
The defence contends Ms. McClintic did far more: That she kidnapped Tori, to resolve an unspecified drug debt, and orchestrated the entire crime.
The trial continues Friday afternoon.