kidnapping and sexual assault
Michael Rafferty has been found guilty of first degree murder, kidnapping and sexual assault caus Rolex Replica ing bodily harm in the death of eight year old Victoria (Tori) Stafford. Justice finally came for Victoria Stafford late Friday when a jury convicted Michael Rafferty of taking, raping and killing the eight year old girl in a secluded Ontario field more than three years ago.
It took the nine women and three men roughly 10 hours to decide Rafferty was guilty of first degree murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm and ki Rolex Replica dnapping.
Members of Stafford’s family burst into tears and hugged each other as the verdict came down. Rafferty, meanwhile, sagged visibly in his seat and closed his eyes as the guilty verdicts were read out in court.
The murder verdict carries with it an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for at least 25 years. A sentencing hearing will be held next Tuesday; Stafford’s family is expected to deliver victim impact statements.
“I knew we would see justice,” said Rodney Stafford, Tori’s father, outside the courthouse where observers and passersby cheered and shouted their joy over the verdict. Passing motorists honked their horns.
Asked about his feelings when he heard the verdict, Rodney Stafford replied that he “wanted to scream in the courtroom, but I just couldn’t . . . But at the same time a sense of loss because Tori’s not coming home.”
When asked about evidence found on Rafferty’s laptop that jurors were not allowed to hear during trial evidence that Rafferty was a consumer of violent child porn Stafford said the jurors are certain to feel relieved when they learn of it.
“They are going to be very amazed . . . it was all for this little girl here,” he said, holding aloft a picture of Tori.
Rafferty had pleaded not guilty. He did not testify. His high profile trial, which began on March 5, has heard from 62 witnesses and has seen 190 exhibits entered into evidence.
Doreen Graichen, Tori’s grandmother, told reporters th Rolex Replica e verdict made her feel “like I can breath again.
“Tori has justice. That was all we ever wanted,” she said, smiling through tears.
“What we’ve been feeling inside for the last 3 years (has) been hell. This has almost been like a release for us. It’s just amazing.”
The girl’s mother, Tara McDonald, left the courthouse with a smile on her face and did not speak to any reporters.
Crown prosecutor Kevin Gowdey said he was pleased with the verdict. He took no questions but did make a short statement in which he thanked the jury and investigators for their work in bringing a long and difficult trial to conclusion.
“Our thoughts are with Victoria’s family” he said. “We believe justice was done.”
Police officers who worked on the Stafford investigation expressed joy as they spoke to media Friday. Many had tears in their eyes.
Woodstock police Insp. Bill Renton, formerly of the Ontario Provincial Police, led the investigation into Stafford’s disappearance. It remains the largest police operation to date in the province’s history.
“Tori was truly our inspiration for the past three years,” he said Friday.
“I know that we all found . . . inspiration and our drive from a very special girl and that was Tori Stafford,” said OPP Det. Insp. Mike Bickerton.
Defence lawyer Dirk Derstine said his client was disappointed by the verdict. It’s unclear if he will file an appeal, which must be done within 30 days.
“We have no regrets,” he said. “We did everything we could to ensure a fair trial for Mr. Rafferty.”
Over the past few years, Derstine has endured criticism for taking the legal aid case due to the strong public emotions attached to such a trial.
“The reality of it is that everybody in our system deserves a strong, proper and effective defence,” he told reporters Friday. “It’s easy enough to say just because we empathize with the child, and empathize with the family . . . Mr. Rafferty is somebody’s child too.
“Anyone of us would wish if this was our child, that was brought forward and accused of terrible things, they would get a fair trial before anything else happened to them.”
Two years ago, Rafferty’s ex girlfriend, Terri Lynne McClintic, pleaded guilty to first degree murder in Staffo Rolex Replica rd’s death. The 21 year old was also sentenced to life in prison.
The Grade 3 student was last seen alive outside an elementary school on April 8, 2009 in Woodstock, Ont., a small city west of Toronto.
Her bludgeoned body was found in a fetal position on July 19, 2009, wrapped in garbage bags and buried under a rock pile in a field near Mount Forest, more than two hours north of where she was last seen.