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Tori Stafford trial

Rafferty talked of abducting kids, witness tells court

Randy Richmond, QMI Agency

LONDON, Ont. - 

Nothing about the killing of Victoria 'Tori' Stafford, or the arrest of a girlfriend involved in the slaying, altered Michael Rafferty's habit of asking woman after woman out on dates.

Nothing changed his tales of being a dance instructor and/or contractor, so busy at work he was always texting people on his cellphone.

To many of the women, he was suitable material for a boyfriend, despite driving a messy car.

Yet, in his conversations with those women, and in what they saw of his car, the Crown prosecuting Rafferty for the murder of the eight-year-old girl found plenty for a jury to consider Thursday.

"We did talk one time about abducting kids and how they take the kids and make them be like their own," ex-girlfriend Sarah Hodge, 31, testified, elaborating a few seconds later, "how people take their kids and abduct them and they just grow up thinking that they're their real parents."

Rafferty was obsessed with the Stafford case, testified Hodge, who said she started dating him April 14, 2009, six days after Tori disappeared while walking home from her Woodstock, Ont., school.

"He was constantly checking the news for it. If it was on TV, he would turn on the TV and watch it. Or, if I had the newspaper, he would pull it out and read about that."

Rafferty confided "he knew all the inside information," she added.

To Hodge and other women, Rafferty spoke about how he was helping a female friend in a detention centre.

Because of her, he'd been questioned about Tori's disappearance.

"He seemed sort of upset by that and I thought that was justifiable," testified another ex-girlfriend.

Sitting in a detention centre at the time was Terri-Lynne McClintic, who later confessed to her role in the abduction and killing of Tori. She's testified she was Rafferty's girlfriend in the spring of 2009, and if so, she had plenty of company.

Counting the women Rafferty told police he was involved with at the time, plus four who've testified this week, the Woodstock man dated at least seven women in the months before his arrest May 19, 2009.

Rafferty has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, kidnapping and sexual assault causing bodily harm in Tori's disappearance and murder.

McClintic pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and received a life sentence in April 2010.

Her testimony has formed the basis of the Crown's version of the events that led to Tori's body being found July 19, 2009, near Mount Forest, Ont.

McClintic has testified Rafferty kept Tori hidden in the back seat of his car while driving from Woodstock April 8, 2009, and raped her in the back seat before she was killed.

The extent of the Crown's interest in Rafferty's dating life is unclear, but there's no mistaking the point in questions about his car seat.

One woman who dated Rafferty up to April 1, 2009, testified Wednesday his 2003 Honda Civic had a back seat bench.

Two who dated him after April 8, 2009, and one who was just a friend, testified Thursday there was no back seat bench in the car.

Four neighbours of Rafferty testified, as well, Thursday a back seat of a car was left outside for Woodstock's annual spring cleanup around April 15, 2009.

But under cross-examination by Rafferty's defence lawyer, Dirk Derstine, neighbour Mike Griswold testified he saw Rafferty remove the car seat March 25, 2009, and place it in a shed in order to install car speakers.

Derstine spent little time questioning Rafferty's former girlfriends about their view of his client.

But he took most of the morning questioning Centre of Forensic Sciences biologist Jennifer McLean about the limitations of DNA evidence.

On Wednesday, McLean testified DNA evidence put Tori in Rafferty's car.

You can't tell us ... whether or not, in fact, they (Rafferty and Tori) were in the car together at the same time?" Derstine asked.

"...if I find DNA from two individuals on one item, it doesn't necessarily mean it was deposited at the same time," McLean agreed.

"For all your skill and science, you cannot say how it is that various different DNA deposits came to be deposited in a different area?" Derstine also asked.

"That is correct," she said.

McLean elaborated on the DNA found from blood on a gym bag found in Rafferty's car. That DNA came from at least three people, with Rafferty one contributor and Tori a second.

But there's no way of knowing for sure if blood was the source for all the DNA found, or how many individuals were the source of the blood, McLean said.

The trial is to continue Friday, with the Crown examining Rafferty's comments to friends about Tori's disappearance.