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Rafferty 'in control' of little girl's murder, court hears

Michael Rafferty is shown in this police handout photo released as court exhibits at Rafferty's trial in London, Ont., Wednesday, April 4, 2012.

The Canadian Press handout

Piece by piece, prosecutors in the Michael Rafferty murder trial sought on Tuesday to demolish the defence theory about how and why eight-year-old Victoria (Tori) Stafford was kidnapped and beaten to death with a hammer three years ago.

And the twin planks of the Crown's response were clear: It is irrelevant who actually wielded the murder weapon – the defendant or his former girlfriend Terri-Lynne McClintic – since they were partners in crime, but Mr. Rafferty was the driving force behind Tori's ghastly death.

"Michael Rafferty and Terri-Lynne McClintic were in this together, together they did this to Tori Stafford, and together they are guilty," Crown attorney Kevin Gowdey told the jury in his closing address. "These were the acts of two people working together throughout."

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Mr. Rafferty, 31, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm and abduction. Ms. McClintic, 10 years his junior, was convicted of Tori's murder in 2010, after confessing to police, and she was the prosecution's key witness during Mr. Rafferty's trial, now in its 10th week.

But in January, Ms. McClintic complicated the Crown's task greatly by changing her story and claiming that she, not Mr. Rafferty, killed Tori with the hammer.

Tuesday was a day raw with emotion as the jury revisited details of the murder: slides showing how Tori's skull was penetrated by the claw hammer Ms. McClintic bought at a Home Depot outlet earlier that day; pictures of the isolated crime scene, where the child's body was eventually discovered under rocks, wrapped in garbage bags; Ms. McClintic's account of seeing Tori being raped, screaming, and of doing nothing to prevent it.

The nine-woman, three-man jury paid close attention to Mr. Gowdey's methodical address, and at times one female juror appeared close to tears.

In his glass-walled prisoner's box, the defendant seemed less interested, sometimes sitting with his eyes half closed. As images of the hammer wounds were displayed, he suppressed a yawn. Later in the day, as Mr. Gowdey outlined the Crown's damning DNA evidence, Mr. Rafferty became more animated, muttering to himself in evident disagreement.

In his closing arguments on Monday, his lawyer Dirk Derstine tried to convince the jurors that Mr. Rafferty was no more than a reluctant participant in a crime initiated and orchestrated by Ms. McClintic. Tori was kidnapped by Ms. McClintic to resolve a mysterious "drug debt," Mr. Derstine argued, without explanation.

But Mr. Gowdey would have none of it, repeatedly urging the jury to use "common sense" in weighing the defence theory.

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While all agree Ms. McClintic abducted Tori from outside her Woodstock school on April 8, 2009 and led her to where Mr. Rafferty was waiting in his parked car a few hundred metres away, "Michael Rafferty was in control," the prosecutor said.

He retraced what happened as Tori was kidnapped and taken to a secluded patch of woods near Mount Forest, 110 kilometres away, making several stops in Guelph along the way.

Mr. Derstine's contention that Mr. Rafferty was a horrified onlooker defies belief, Mr. Gowdey told the jury: If either he or Ms. McClintic had wanted to save Tori, they had ample opportunity to do so, but did nothing.

There are three routes to a conviction for first-degree murder, he told the court: When the crime involves planning, sexual assault or confinement. In this instance, he said, there is evidence Mr. Rafferty is guilty on all three counts. Whether he personally committed the killing, or whether he aided and abetted it, he remains culpable, Mr. Gowdey said.

The pair was charged with murder in May, 2009, a few weeks after Tori disappeared. Her decomposed body was discovered in July, 2009, in a secluded patch of woodland 130 kilometres away.

It was impossible to determine whether she had been sexually violated, pathologist Michael Pollanen told the trial, and Mr. Derstine insists his client is innocent of the charge.

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Ms. McClintic, however, now serving life imprisonment, testified that she witnessed Tori being brutally raped by Mr. Rafferty, and that's what made her snap. She cracked the child's head with the hammer, she said, and also stomped on her.

Sixteen of Tori's 24 ribs were broken and her liver was lacerated, the trial has heard.

Mr. Gowdey concurred that Ms. McClintic played a major role in Tori's death. "By harnessing the rage she carried with her as a result of her broken life, she was the violent pawn Michael Rafferty used," he said.

But as to her being the killer, "What was the motive for her to kill Tori at all?" the prosecutor asked rhetorically. "None has been shown.… But even if you accept that Terri-Lynne McClintic was the one with the hammer, it doesn't matter."

He also rejected any suggestion that Ms. McClintic might have selected the secluded crime scene. It was no accident that Mr. Rafferty, who knew the area, took his prisoner there, Mr. Gowdey said.

Driving so far from Woodstock made no sense "unless you're taking her to a location, away from civilization, where no one will hear her screams … and no one will find her body." If Ms. McClintic picked the spot, he said, why was she later unable to locate it, after confessing to the murder?

The Crown resumes its closing arguments Wednesday.

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