The lead counsel for the man accused of raping and murdering eight-year-old Victoria (Tori) Stafford launched a blistering cross-examination of the prosecution’s key witness on Wednesday afternoon, and its purpose was clear: To convince the jury that Terri-Lynne McClintic was telling the truth when she testified last week that she – not her former boyfriend, Michael Rafferty – killed Tori with a hammer almost three years ago.
Drawing on a compendium of violent, gangster-style writings by Ms. McClintic, now serving a life term for Tori’s death, defence lawyer Dirk Derstine elicited from her the admission that more than a year before the girl was kidnapped and killed, Ms. McClintic had fantasized in a jailhouse letter about kidnapping a stranger, torturing the person and then crushing their skull.
At the time, she was behind bars for a stabbing and a robbery, part of a long criminal record that will be further explored on Thursday.
“I feel like a vampire in heat. I hear voices in my head, I pray they aren’t real,” she wrote.
“I want to be on the road so I can take the first person I see, grab ’em … bring ’em with me … mutilate them … smash their skull apart and put it back together like a puzzle.”
While it is Mr. Rafferty who is on trial, Ms. McClintic surprised many in the courtroom last week by claiming that she killed Tori with three hammer blows to the head.
That testimony directly contradicts what she told police after she was arrested.
Earlier on Wednesday, in a major victory for the prosecution, Mr. Justice Thomas Heeney permitted the jury to see and hear the police videotape in which Ms. McClintic states, in graphic detail, that Mr. Rafferty killed Tori.
Furthermore, Judge Heeney told the jurors that, unlike other video aired at trial last week, that clip can be regarded as evidence in the case against Mr. Rafferty, 31.
Mr. Rafferty has pleaded not guilty to kidnapping, sexually assaulting and killing the Woodstock girl.
Ms. McClintic, 21, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in 2010 and is serving life imprisonment with scant prospect of parole for at least 25 years.
In her jail letters, she portrayed herself as a tough, unforgiving gangster affiliated with the Crips. She styled herself and a young woman she wrote to in much of the correspondence as “murderous bitches.”
Yet in her police interrogation, she seemed meek and overwhelmed by remorse, determined to do all she could to help officers find Tori’s body.
The two snapshots of the immensely troubled young woman were in stark juxtaposition.
Other letters described tying up and torturing the family of a fellow inmate who had slighted Ms. McClintic, and in another, she supplied the names and addresses of potential witnesses so they could be targeted: “Yo, I just want it done.”
On that letter, she drew a pistol.
She also wrote she wanted to “go on a killing spree,” but needed to learn how to use a gun.
Asked by Mr. Derstine about her dark writings, Ms. McClintic said she didn’t mean most of it.
“I spoke about a lot of things, that doesn’t mean I would necessarily do them,” she said. “I did a lot of things at that point in my life that I’m not particularly proud of and that I wouldn’t do now.”
She conceded, however, that she was more serious when she wrote about targeting possible witnesses.
“When you provided all that personal information, you weren’t just venting, were you? That wasn’t just talk,” Mr. Derstine suggested.
“No,” she responded.
She also wrote about dyeing her hair and wearing coloured contact lenses so police wouldn’t recognize her, and Mr. Derstine seized on the detail: After Tori was killed, Ms. McClintic cut her hair and bought a box of dye.
And he offered a strong hint of the central plank in his defence strategy: The notion that long before she met Mr. Rafferty, Ms. McClintic was both violent and capable of considerable planning.
Neatly dressed and coiffed, looking pale, Ms. McClintic delivered her evidence in a calm voice. From the prisoner’s box, Mr. Rafferty stared at her hard, occasionally closing his eyes.
The crucial video clip of her police statement, played to the jury by Crown attorney Kevin Gowdey, lasted just under an hour and left some jurors visibly perturbed.
It showed Ms. McClintic outlining for Detective-Sergeant Jim Smyth of the Ontario Provincial Police the horrifying circumstances of how Tori was killed after being abducted in April, 2009, outside her school in Woodstock, Ont.
Under Det.-Sgt. Smyth’s gentle prodding, the witness provided a searing, tearful description of how Mr. Rafferty raped, kicked and finally beat Tori to death.
At the trial last week, she insisted that while Mr. Rafferty did rape and abuse the child, she inflicted the fatal blows.
Ms. McClintic’s longhand jailhouse letters, in neat, single-space printing on foolscap, were riddled with profanity and deliberate misspellings.
Signed with her nickname – Trip – they were addressed to a young woman dubbed “Krazy.”
Many were decorated with three-point crowns and other symbols of the Crips street gang.
“We share the same thirst for blood, we love to see it pour,” she wrote in a poem.
“As they beg for pain to stop, we inflict it even more.”
On another occasion, she wrote about “doing in” her adoptive mother, Carol McClintic, whom she admitted assaulting more than once.
The correspondence also provided a glimpse of Ms. McClintic’s life behind bars. She described a rigorous daily exercise regimen that included 400 sit-ups, 150 push-ups and boxing with her mattress. Simultaneously, however, she was also “railing” (snorting) prescription drugs, and she discussed having them smuggled into the jail by a guard.
Mr. Derstine’s cross-examination resumes on Thursday.