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Surveillance cameras rolled as accused murderer made prison visit

Michael Rafferty and Terri-Lynne McClintic embrace in this still image taken from a police handout video dated May 8, 2009. Rafferty visited McClintic twice at a detention centre, where she was taken after being arrested days after the killing of Victoria Stafford on an unrelated matter.

The Canadian Press

Warning: this story contains graphic details.

They laughed, they hugged, they caressed each other, they performed little dances.

Wreathed in smiles, the two young people resembled carefree honeymooners. But the venue was a prison visiting room, the video footage was from surveillance cameras, and the players were Terri-Lynne McClintic and Michael Rafferty, jointly charged in the abduction and murder of eight-year-old Victoria (Tori) Stafford, beaten to death with a hammer after allegedly being savagely raped.

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With Mr. Rafferty's trial now in its eighth week, it surely takes a lot to shock the jurors after the nightmarish evidence they have been compelled to see and hear. But the silent video footage they viewed Wednesday afternoon – and its timing – must have seemed almost incomprehensible.

Tori was kidnapped April 8, 2009 and murdered that evening in a secluded patch of woods, 110 kilometres from her Woodstock home.

Four days later, Ms. McClintic was detained on an unrelated charge – breaching a court order – and taken to the Genest Secure Detention Centre for Youth in London. She has been behind bars ever since and was in custody on May 19 when she confessed to Tori's murder.

Mr. Rafferty was arrested that same night.

But in the interim, the couple stayed in touch via a stream of phone calls, the court heard Wednesday.

And a few days after Ms. McClintic was detained, she managed to get Mr. Rafferty placed on her visiting list, for which boyfriends normally do not qualify. An exception was made in this case because Ms. McClintic's mother was seriously ill and Mr. Rafferty was helping out, Genest program director Kerri-Lee Cushing-Mitchener told the trial.

Mr. Rafferty visited twice, on May 8 and May 12.

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A jaunty, confident figure, he is seen on the video driving up to the jail in the same battered Honda Civic in which he allegedly piloted Tori to her death a few weeks earlier.

Alone together in the Genest visiting area, which resembles a cafeteria, the couple can be seen but not heard during the two-hour-long visits. But there is no mistaking their cheerfulness and evident pleasure at seeing each other. At one point, Mr. Rafferty hams it up for the camera, flexing his muscles with a big grin.

After they part, Ms. McClintic is seen gazing wistfully out at the parking lot.

In his prisoner's box Wednesday, her former boyfriend barely glanced at the monitor in front of him. Instead, he did what he has been doing during much of the trial: furiously scribbling notes.

In other evidence, the jury had a glimpse of the torrent of communications that flowed from his BlackBerry, both before and after Tori was killed.

During the six weeks before he was charged, he dispatched a daily average of 142 communications, chiefly PIN numbers and text messages, Detective Constable Gordon Johnson told prosecutor Stephanie Venne. In the nine weeks before Tori was killed, a daily average of 65 phone calls and text messages went out from his BlackBerry, but that total excluded his PIN usage – the semi-secret means by which a confidential message can be sent to a trusted person.

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The bulk of those messages were sent to women Mr. Rafferty had befriended via the Internet. And the back-and-forth PIN messages that were his preferred means of contact continued right through much of the day on which he allegedly raped and murdered Tori, and beyond.

On April 8, the chief recipient was a prostitute who was supporting him, a woman named Charity Spitzig. One day later, the overall total was 72 PINS, 58 text messages, four voice calls and two data calls.

The prosecution will wrap up its case Thursday.

Then, next week, the defence gets its turn, and the key question hovering over the proceedings is whether Mr. Rafferty will testify.

Now 31, he has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, abduction and sexual assault causing bodily harm in Tori's death.

Two years ago, Ms. McClintic, now 21, confessed to 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, she 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 an hour or so after the kidnapping.

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About the Author

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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