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Rafferty visited his drug dealer after Tori Stafford's abduction, trial told

Michael Rafferty is transported from the courthouse in the back of police cruiser in London, Ont., on March, 14, 2012. Mr. Rafferty is facing charges in the death of Victoria (Tori) Stafford.


Warning: This story contains graphic details

Roughly one hour after Michael Rafferty and Terri-Lynne McClintic allegedly abducted eight-year-old Victoria (Tori) Stafford in Woodstock, Mr. Rafferty showed up in Guelph and bought drugs from a woman he knew, his murder trial heard.

The evidence came Tuesday from prosecution witness Barbara Armstrong, 44, a former girlfriend of Mr. Rafferty. She testified that she met the accused six years ago at a Guelph meat-packing plant where they both worked, dated him for a few months, and subsequently sold him Percocets, a powerful prescription painkiller, about a dozen times.

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Charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping and sexual assault causing bodily harm, Mr. Rafferty, 31, has pleaded not guilty on all counts.

Ms. Armstrong – who described her relationship with Mr. Rafferty as "friends, confidants" – told prosecutor Michael Carnegie that she arrived home from work and a visit to a chiropractor at around 4:30 p.m. on April 8, 2009, to find Mr. Rafferty's car parked outside, with a dark-haired woman in the passenger seat. Mr. Rafferty had texted her ahead of time and said he wanted to stop by to pick up the pills.

Ms. Armstrong made no mention of seeing a child in the vehicle. (The trial has been told that Tori was by then in the back seat of Mr. Rafferty's Honda Civic, hidden under a coat.) She testified that Mr. Rafferty came inside the house, stayed for about 10 minutes chatting, and that she sold him the "Percs" for $3 apiece – a $1 markup from what she had paid.

She could not recall how many pills she gave him that time, but Ms. McClintic has told the trial he emerged from the house with a sandwich bag filled with them, and that she thought he parted with about $300.

In other evidence Tuesday, the jury heard from a police officer who retraced the movements of Mr. Rafferty and Ms. McClintic later that same afternoon, when they allegedly bought the hammer and garbage bags used to murder Tori and hide her body.

Since the trial got under way on March 5, the jury has listened to an array of disturbing evidence about Tori's death. Mr. Rafferty had been the boyfriend of Ms. McClintic for just a few weeks when Tori vanished in Woodstock, in April of 2009, en route home from nearby Oliver Stephens Public School. The Grade 3 pupil's remains were discovered three months later, outside the small town of Mount Forest, 130 kilometres away, wrapped in green garbage bags and concealed beneath heavy rocks.

Ms. Armstrong also told the trial Tuesday that after the drug deal she next encountered Mr. Rafferty a couple of days later and that he appeared haggard. "He said he hadn't been eating or sleeping, that there were so many things going on in his life," she said.

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He also mentioned Tori, who by then had become the focus of a huge search.

"He said that a friend of a friend's daughter had gone missing and he was going to look for her," Ms. Armstrong told the court. "He had heard that it was drug-related, he said the mom owed a lot of money and that's why [Tori] was taken."

By then, the famous video of Tori leaving her school with an unidentified woman (now known to be Ms. McClintic) had been aired, and Mr. Rafferty told Ms. Armstrong "he thought he recognized the girl in the video," she said.

He also told her he believed the police knew who the mystery woman was and were forcefully trying to get her to confess.

Tori's remains were found after police, aided by Ms. McClintic, had scoured the area for weeks.

An autopsy concluded that Tori died as a result of massive injuries to her skull, inflicted by a hammer. She had also suffered fractured ribs and a lacerated liver – injuries that by themselves could have been fatal. In April of 2010, Ms. McClintic, now 21, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and is serving life imprisonment with scant prospect of parole for at least 25 years.

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She is also the pivotal witness in the prosecution's case against Mr. Rafferty. But she complicated its task by offering two different accounts of how the child was killed.

Days after she and Mr. Rafferty were jointly charged with murder, in May of 2009, Ms. McClintic told police that it was Mr. Rafferty who struck Tori with the hammer, bought at a Guelph Home Depot. And earlier in the trial the jury saw video clips from that police interview, in which a distraught Ms. McClintic described how Mr. Rafferty raped, kicked, stomped and finally beat the little girl to death, after covering her head with one of the garbage bags.

But in her trial evidence, Ms. McClintic testified that, in fact, it was she who wielded the murder weapon, in a sudden fit of blind, pent-up rage, triggered by the savage sexual assault she had just witnessed.

The bulk of her police statement, however, remains true, she told the trial: the abduction, the rape, the journey to Mount Forest and the post-murder efforts to dispose of evidence.

The trial also heard Tuesday from OPP Sergeant Dave Vittie, who described how he and colleagues pieced together the other movements of the two accused in Guelph that same day.

Bank records showed Mr. Rafferty making a series of transactions at teller machines, while video footage from the Home Depot in Guelph showed Ms. McClintic buying the garbage bags and the orange-handled Wavex hammer and then placing the items in the trunk of Mr. Rafferty's car.

The car then drove away in the direction of Highway 6, close to which Tori's body would be found in July, 2009.

The trial resumes Wednesday.

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At The Globe and Mail since 1982, in assorted manifestations, chiefly crime reporter, foreign correspondent and member of the Editorial Board, Tim is now retired. More

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