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Tori Stafford Trial

Rafferty's fate soon to be in jury's hands

Hank Daniszewski, QMI Agency

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LONDON, ONT. - 

Three years after the death of Victoria "Tori" Stafford, the fate of accused murderer Michael Rafferty could be in the hands of a jury 10 weeks after his trial began.

Superior Court Justice Thomas Heeney is expected to start, and perhaps finish, his charge to the jury Thursday.

Jurors could begin their deliberations immediately after that.

The nine men and three women in the jury have much to consider, both from the evidence and the closing arguments of the Crown and defence.

Rafferty, 31, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, kidnapping and sexual assault causing bodily harm in the April 2009 death of Tori, who vanished on her way home from school.

McClintic, 21, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison in April 2010.

Rafferty and Terri-Lynne McClintic were “a terrible team, a murderous duo,” but Rafferty was the mastermind and must be convicted of the murder of the eight-year-old girl, Crown attorney Kevin Gowdey said Wednesday as he wrapped up his final argument.

While Gowdey admitted McClintic -- the Crown’s star witness -- was violent and a chronic liar, he said that for Michael Rafferty she was the perfect partner in crime.

“She was so happy to have him in her life, instead of the usual thugs, she would have done anything for him,” he said.

Gowdey suggested that may have included “taking the fall” for Rafferty by changing her story earlier this year to insist that she, not he, delivered the hammer blows that killed Tori.

Earlier in the trial, McClintic said she killed the school girl in a spontaneous fit of rage when the sight of Rafferty sexual assaulting Tori aroused her own horrific childhood memories.

But Gowdey said that testimony didn’t make sense because she attacked the victim rather the aggressor.

The attack also didn’t seem to be spontaneous since she had to ask Rafferty to open the trunk of his car so she could retrieve a hammer that she’d bought earlier the same day.

Gowdey reminded the jurors they don’t have to decide who dealt the fatal blow that killed Tori. He said Rafferty and McClintic planned the abduction and murder together and were equally guilty.

They’d decided at the outset to kill the girl so she couldn’t identify them, he said.

Gowdey said Rafferty was always in control and recruited McClintic as his violent pawn.

Gowdey listed 20 things that Rafferty did to cover his tracks after the crime, including carefully hiding Tori’s body, disposing of clothes, cleaning his car and visiting McClintic in the Genest Detention Centre to keep her “on side.”

“Was this the actions of an innocent dupe?” asked Gowdey.

In contrast, he said McClintic made a genuine effort to help police after she first confessed to the crime in May 2009.

While defence lawyer Dirk Derstine accused McClintic of lying throughout her testimony, Gowdey said she told the truth about key aspects of the crimes.

He went through a list of 25 details in McClintic’s testimony that could be supported by independent police investigation, including phone records, surveillance video and items of evidence that were seized.

He said McClintic had nothing to gain by implicating Rafferty, and she'd admitted to a number of terrible acts, such as betraying Tori by leading her to the car where Rafferty was ready to sexually assault the child.

“If she was falsely implicating Rafferty, why would she invent details that would make her look bad?” said Gowdey.

hank.daniszewski@sunmedia.ca

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