Called a 'monster,' Rafferty denies guilt
Published Tuesday, May 15, 2012 6:17PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 8:19AM EDT
A judge sealed the fate of convicted killer Michael Rafferty on Tuesday, sentencing the 31-year-old to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.
After a 10-week trial, Rafferty was convicted Friday of first-degree murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm and kidnapping in the death of Victoria Stafford.
On top of his life sentence for murder, Rafferty was also ordered to concurrently serve 10 years for his convictions on the two other charges.
Before handing down the punishment, Superior Court Justice Thomas Heeney denounced Rafferty as a "monster" who killed a young girl to satisfy his "twisted and deviant desire to have sex with a child."
Throughout the trial, Rafferty had quietly maintained his innocence and did not take the stand when the defence had the opportunity to present its case.
The only on-the-record account of what may have happened to Victoria came from Rafferty's former girlfriend Terri-Lynne McClintic, who has already pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and is serving a life sentence.
But as a packed courtroom looked on, Rafferty chose to break that silence on Tuesday and extended his condolences to the eight-year-old girl's family.
"I know this has been a long ordeal for everybody and I'm glad it has come to an end. I hope everybody can find some closure of some sort to me being sentenced to life," he told the court before his sentence was passed.
Rafferty said he chose to stay quiet during the trial, believing it would benefit his case.
He added he was "truly sorry" that the Stafford family lost Victoria and was "a very definite part of why Victoria was not here today." But Rafferty also held steady to his "not guilty" plea, saying that he disagreed with all three charges.
Before concluding the statement, Rafferty repeated his apology: "I am very sorry…not that any of you may believe me."
Several of Victoria's family members read out victim impact statements before the sentence was passed down. The court heard from numerous loved ones including the young girl's mother and father, but it was a testimonial from Victoria's older brother that ultimately brought Rafferty to tears.
The Crown read out Daryn Stafford's statement, which described how the 14-year-old has difficulty concentrating and is unable to walk down the street without looking over his shoulder to see if anyone is behind him.
"Not one person can say they feel the same way as me. My sister was the only person I had to talk to, someone that felt what I felt, cried when I cried, laughed when I laughed and now I feel alone, like the world is playing a sick trick on me," the statement read.
The admission elicited tears from Rafferty, who dabbed his eyes in the prisoner's box.
Daryn concluded his statement with his last memory of Victoria. He recalled how the two of them argued "like any brother and sister" before parting ways at school.
"I didn't know I would never get to see her again," he said.
Moments earlier, Victoria's mother Tara McDonald took the stand to list off all the ordinary milestones her daughter would never be able to celebrate.
Unable to mark joyous occasions such as her birthday or prom, McDonald said Victoria's family is left to observe grim anniversaries -- the day she went missing for example, and the day her body was found.
McDonald also fired back at widespread speculation that she was somehow involved in Victoria's disappearance, saying that she must live the rest of her life "hearing the whispers of strangers and being started at."
Family members launched an exhaustive search for Victoria after she went missing on April 8, 2009. The investigation gripped the young girl's hometown of Woodstock, Ont. and eventually caught the nation's attention as well.
Several weeks would pass before the Grade 3 student's body was found in a garbage bag under a rock pile in a rural area near Mount Forest, Ont.
Victoria's father Rodney Stafford was visibly distraught Tuesday as he described having to stand at his daughter's headstone instead of holding her in his arms.
Onlookers in the overflow courtroom broke out into applause when Stafford addressed the man convicted of killing his daughter directly, referring to him as a "piece of s**t."
Questions about Rafferty's agency in Victoria's death were a sticking point during his trial. Defence lawyers maintained that he was a dupe who unwittingly chauffeured his former lover as she kidnapped the girl to resolve a drug debt. Meanwhile, the Crown argued that Rafferty and McClintic carried out the crime together.
For Rodney Stafford, regardless of what events led up to Victoria's death, the consequences remain the same.
"Nothing will ever replace what was stolen from all of us. A human life, a child's life, my daughter's life," he said in his statement.