Michael Rafferty has been sentenced to life in prison with nopossibility of parole for 25 years, despite his continued claimthat he did not commit crimes against Victoria (Tori) Stafford. At a sentencing hearing held at the courthouse in London, Ont.,Tuesday, Rafferty was given the opportunity to speak and he said,"I firmly stand behind not guilty." He admitted he played a role in the disappearance of Tori, who waslast seen alive outside her elementary school in Woodstock, Ont.,on April 8, 2009, but said he's not guilty of murder, kidnapping,or sexual assault, even though a jury found him guilty on all ofthose charges on Friday. He offered to meet with Tori's mother,Tara McDonald, to fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle so shewould know the whole story. But outside the courthouse, McDonaldtold reporters she wasn't interested in the offer. |
In sentencing the 31-year-old, Justice Thomas Heeney said Raffertycommitted an act of "pure evil" and added there is no doubt thejury got it right. "Most tragically of all you have snuffed out the life of a littlegirl ... And for what? So you could fulfil your twisted and deviantdesire to have sex with a child. Only a monster could commit an actof such pure evil. You sir are a monster," the judge said.
Rafferty also received 10 years each for kidnapping and sexualassault causing bodily harm, to be served concurrently with thesentence for first-degree murder. Heeney also prohibited him from owning weapons, and said his namewill be added to the national sex offender registry and he mustprovide a DNA sample. Rafferty will be eligible for parole on May19, 2034. A number of Tori's relatives spoke at the hearing about the lossthey felt after the 2009 slaying. Her mother said she has been through a lifetime of pain in the pastthree years.
She said her life, and the lives of her family, weredestroyed the day Tori disappeared. "But Victoria wouldn't want us to be miserable forever, so for herwe will pick up the pieces and put together our lives as best as wecan," McDonald said. "No amount of time or tears will ever bringher back to me." McDonald said her 14-year-old son, Daryn, who usually walked hisyounger sister home from school, still feels guilty about not doingso on April 8, 2009, the day Tori went missing after leaving OliverStephens Public School. Her remains were found more than threemonths later in Mount Forest, 100 kilometres north of Woodstock. McDonald also said she still has to deal with whispers from peoplewho think she had something to do with her daughter'sdisappearance.
She said she will never get a chance to see Tori at her graduation,prom or wedding. It has all been replaced by anniversaries theday she went missing, the day she was found. Other family members who spoke at Rafferty's sentencing hearingincluded two of Tori's aunts, an uncle and two grandmothers. Rodney Stafford, Tori's father, told the hearing there had been agreat impact, especially on younger members of the family, afterthe Grade 3 student was abducted.
Rodney Stafford told the hearing there are no words to express hisfeelings and that he often wants to explode with rage. Cheers couldbe heard in the courthouse when he referred to the "piece of shit"who stole Tori. Tears from killer When a statement written by Tori's brother Daryn was read out,Rafferty appeared to get emotional and began to cry, occasionallywiping tears from his eyes. Michael Rafferty's trial in London, Ont., began on March 5. (Canadian Press) Daryn explained that he and Tori were very close, they laughed andcried together, and that part of his heart had been "ripped out." "Now I feel alone, like the world is playing a sick trick on me,"he wrote.
"But it's not, this is my reality. No more fun times,just old memories. No more 'I love yous,' just an empty spot in myheart." Daryn said he has had to go to counselling. He wrote that he haslow self-esteem and anxiety.
He cannot walk alone without lookingbehind him, cannot sleep because of nightmares and cannot be byhimself. He described the last time he saw Tori, on the day she disappeared,and said everything seemed normal. "Now I am lost without her, trying to move on without my babysister and best friend," he wrote. Throughout Rafferty's trial, which began March 5 and ended with aguilty verdict Friday evening, people jockeyed to get a seat in thecourtroom, and Tuesday morning was no different. People lined upearly to try to get a seat inside the courtroom or in the overflowroom.
Rafferty was found guilty on all three charges he faced followingthe first full day of deliberations: first-degree murder, sexualassault causing bodily harm and kidnapping. Terri-Lynne McClintic, who pleaded guilty to first-degree murdertwo years ago, testified in March that she lured Tori toRafferty s car on his orders. The pair then took the girl first toGuelph and later to Mount Forest. McClintic was one of more than a dozen women Rafferty dated in thespring of 2009, several at the same time. McClintic told jurors Rafferty repeatedly raped the girl before,overcome with rage, she bludgeoned the young girl to death with ahammer.
The 21-year-old had previously said Rafferty killed Tori. Tori's partially clothed remains were found more than three monthslater in a field outside of Mount Forest, inside garbage bags andcovered with several large stones. Defence lawyer Dirk Derstine told the media assembled outside thecourthouse after a verdict had been reached that a decision onwhether to appeal is in Rafferty's hands and will be made in "duecourse." Rafferty downloaded child porn Throughout the trial, jurors were unaware that Rafferty hadsearched for and downloaded child pornography to his computer,after Heeney ruled the evidence inadmissible because policeobtained the information without a proper warrant. They were also unaware he had downloaded a movie, Gardens of the Night , which details the abduction and sexual abuse of an eight-year-oldgirl.
Justice Heeney briefly touched on the excluded evidence during hissentencing comments, noting that there had been a "negative"reaction after its release. He said the criticism demonstrates a "fundamental misunderstanding"of the basic concepts of Canadian law, saying that characterevidence can often unduly influence a jury and has led to wrongfulconvictions. "Instead, the jury in this case convicted the accused solely on thebasis of solid, admissible and overwhelming evidence that wasdirectly relevant to the heinous deeds committed by Rafferty andhis partner in evil on April 8, 2009." It was his conduct, not his character that led to the verdict,Heeney said. Jurors began their deliberation Thursday and returned a verdict alittle more than 24 hours later.
Over the course of the lengthy andoften emotional trial, the 12-member jury heard from 62 witnessesand viewed almost 200 exhibits.
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