Pre-trial hearing in Tori Stafford murder to resume Tuesday
The pre-trial hearing for the Ontario man charged with first-degree murder and abduction in the 2009 death of eight-year-old Victoria Stafford was adjourned shortly after it got underway Monday.
Michael Rafferty's pre-trial hearing, which is expected to last up to 4 weeks as the court hammers out rules for his trial set to begin in late February, will now resume Tuesday morning.
Reporting from outside the London, Ontario courthouse, CTV Toronto's Austin Delaney said lawyers for both the Crown and defence asked the judge for a bit more time to prepare.
Before proceedings were put off, however, Delaney said Victoria Stafford's father Rodney had a chance to stare down the accused.
"Michael Rafferty did not look over," Delaney said, describing the accused as clean cut and dressed in a grey suit.
A publication ban prevents other details of the pre-trial hearings from being made public.
Ahead of the proceedings Monday, CTV Southwestern Ontario's Joel Bowey said the pre-trial will focus on setting the rules for the jury trial slated to get underway in late February.
"A jury has yet to be picked in the case, and because of that, there's a wide-ranging publication ban that actually prevents us from talking much about what's going to happen," Bowey told CTV's Canada AM.
Rafferty was one of two people charged in Stafford's 2009 death.
Co-accused Terri-Lynne McClintic pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison.
Details of McClintic's trial were sealed until the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal in December, 2010.
Once the publication ban was lifted, the public learned that McClintic had admitted to striking up a conversation with Stafford outside Woodstock's Oliver Stephens Public School on April 8, 2009.
Their hand-in-hand walk, captured on surveillance video, proved to be the last time Stafford was seen alive.
McClintic said she was high on Oxycontin when she spotted Stafford that day, and lured the third-grader to come see a puppy. McClintic also told the court she later stopped at a local hardware store to buy garbage bags and a hammer.
Police have never revealed how Stafford died, but in court it was revealed that her death was caused by multiple blunt force impacts.
After an exhaustive search that made international headlines, the body of the blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl known as Tori was found three months later. Stafford was discovered by an Ontario Provincial Police investigator, under a rock pile in a field north of Guelph, more than 100 kilometres from her hometown.
When Rodney Stafford spoke to reporters outside the London courthouse Monday morning, he described living with the misery of his daughter's loss everyday.
Stafford also said he's glad the pre-trial is getting started, even if the next weeks and months promise to be very difficult.
"I'm preparing for the worst. Every bad imaginable possibility has gone through my head. It's all I can do 'cause I know there's gonna be some bad stuff coming out during the trial, but we gotta keep moving forward. We can't change what happened," he said.
Rafferty also faces an additional charge of sexual assault causing bodily harm, reported Delaney. The charge, which is listed on Rafferty's indictment, was laid in June 2010.
The case was originally set to be heard in Woodstock, but last year the Crown agreed to a change of venue. London was set by the court as the trial location.
"Tori was from a town of about 30,000 people. Not a small town, but small enough that a lot of people know each other. And her case was very public. A lot of people took part in searching for her," Bowey said, noting that both McClintic and Rafferty lived in the southwestern Ontario community too.
Rafferty's trial, which could last up to three months, will be heard by Ontario Superior Justice Thomas Heeney. Jury selection gets underway on Feb. 27.