Rafferty's mom says son not guilty of Stafford murder
Published Monday, May 7, 2012 5:36PM EDT
The mother of the man accused in the death of Victoria Stafford defended her son outside court Monday, saying her son is not guilty of the charges he faces.
Deborah Murphy, the mother of accused Michael Rafferty, attended her son's court proceedings for what is believed to be the first time Monday. She sat in the courtroom as the defence presented its closing arguments.
Rafferty, 31, is charged with kidnapping, sexual assault and first-degree murder in the death of the eight-year-old girl.
While Murphy declined to speak to the media at the time of Stafford's 2009 disappearance, she said outside court that her son is not guilty.
Some observers expect that the trial could wrap up on Wednesday, when the judge could ask the jury to begin weighing the evidence.
In closing arguments Monday, the defence questioned the reliability of the Crown's key witness in the case.
Lawyer Dirk Derstine opened proceedings by trying to chip away at the credibility of Terri-Lynne McClintic, Rafferty's ex-girlfriend. Derstine then told court that McClintic is like "Jekyll and Hyde," professing on one hand to be an unwilling participant in Stafford's death when she in fact targeted Stafford while in a bloodthirsty rage.
McClintic has already pleaded guilty to Stafford's murder and is serving a life sentence for the crime.
Jurors weighing Rafferty's fate listened as the defence alleged that McClintic was the driving force behind the little girl's murder, willfully obstructing police investigation.
Derstine rhymed off a list of inconsistencies in McClintic's statements to police, including her initial willingness to help in the search for Stafford. Derstine continued by asking the jury not to be affected by McClintic's tears on the stand.
The delivery of Derstine's closing arguments indicate the two-and-a-half month long trial is edging closer to a verdict.
Throughout the trial, the defence has attempted to position Rafferty as an unwitting dupe in Stafford's murder, while painting McClintic as the mastermind or "engine" behind a gruesome plot.
In his closing argument Monday, Derstine read passages from an old journal written by McClintic that he said portrays an "alarming propensity for violence."
McClintic had responded to the diary passages earlier in the trial, stating she isn't proud of what she wrote. She also told the court she had undergone a significant personal transformation in 2008, about a year before Stafford disappeared.
During an earlier cross-examination, Derstine alleged that McClintic abducted Stafford over a drug debt and offered the girl as a "gift" to Rafferty for sexual purposes, a proposal he declined.
Known as 'Tori' to loved ones, Stafford was kidnapped on April 8, 2009 as she was leaving Oliver Stephens Public School in Woodstock, Ont.
The Grade 3 student's body was later found in a garbage bag under a rock pile in a rural area near Mount Forest, Ont.
Earlier, Derstine put forward the idea that McClintic directed Rafferty to the rural area where the girl's partially clothed remains were found three months after she went missing.
The Crown has vehemently denied suggestions that McClintic was an instigator.
McClintic testified that Rafferty had urged her to lure a child from a schoolyard at random. The 21-year-old woman told the court that Rafferty raped Stafford after the kidnapping, but it was she who fatally struck the girl with a hammer.
Before the trial, McClintic maintained that it was Rafferty who killed Stafford. But upon taking the stand, she changed her stance and said she dealt the fatal blows.
Derstine said Monday that the new story is the one the jury should believe. Derstine suggested McClintic targeted the little girl, telling jurors that McClintic lived near Stafford and had met her mother.
Derstine questioned why McClintic would have gone along with a plot hatched by Rafferty, when the two were not in love. Had she not been keen on the plot, Derstine said, McClintic would have sought help when they stopped at a Tim Hortons on their way to where Stafford was killed.
"So you're in front of this bustling hive of humanity, knowing that this little lark that you got yourself into -- as if -- you know, all of a sudden this turned into this incredible nightmare," Derstine said sarcastically. "What, she just sits there and waits for her tea?"
He also suggested McClintic could have sought help when they made another stop at a Home Depot, where she purchased a hammer and garbage bags.
"What on God's green acre could she have been thinking to continue with this scheme if she was not the engine behind it?" Derstine said.
The Crown took about eight weeks to call 61 witnesses and enter more than 100 pieces of evidence, including a photo of butterfly earrings worn by Stafford.
However, when it came time for the defence to present its case, only one witness was called forward: a 60-year-old woman who spoke of routinely picking up her grandchildren from Stafford's school.
Recalling the day Stafford disappeared, the witness said she saw a woman in a white puffy coat enter the school and walk away with what appeared to be a happy girl.
She testified that, while the child was chatting cheerfully, the woman had a stern look on her face and appeared to be "on a mission."
The testimony has been viewed as Derstine's attempt to discredit the assertion that Stafford was snatched from her school at random.
Prosecutors are expected to present their arguments on Tuesday. From there, the judge will instruct the jury, which is tasked with determining the trial's outcome.