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Stafford's family gets the last word as Rafferty awaits sentencing

Victoria "Tori" Stafford, 8, is shown in this photo copied from a poster, in Woodstock, Ont.

DAVE CHIDLEY/The Canadian Press/DAVE CHIDLEY/The Canadian Press

The final page in the wrenching, emotion-laden murder trial of Michael Rafferty will turn Tuesday morning when the 31-year-old convicted killer receives an automatic life sentence.

But first the court will hear from the family and friends of his victim, eight-year-old Victoria (Tori) Stafford, raped and beaten to death three years ago in a lonely patch of woods in northern Wellington County.

She was abducted outside her Woodstock, Ont., school and lured to Mr. Rafferty's car by his former girlfriend, co-convicted murderer Terri-Lynne McClintic, who confessed to her role in Tori's death and, since April, 2010, has also been serving a life term.

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On Friday night, during the 10th week of court proceedings, the jury weighing the evidence against Mr. Rafferty returned guilty verdicts on all three charges: first-degree murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm and abduction.

When he passes sentence Tuesday, trial judge Mr. Justice Thomas Heeney will assuredly address the exceptionally vicious manner in which Tori was killed.

Whether Mr. Rafferty chooses to speak remains to be seen. He chose not to testify in his own defence. Whether he says anything or not, he will be under no illusions about what the future holds.

"You want me to tell you things I didn't do so I can be locked up for the rest of my life for this," he told his police interrogators on the night he was arrested, as he insisted that he was innocent. "It means losing my life, it means not having my life any more, it means not taking care of my mom, it means not having to do the things that I do every day."

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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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