Rafferty defence rests in Tori Stafford trial

WARNING: This story contains disturbing details. Michael Rafferty, accused of killing and raping Victoria (Tori) Stafford, did not testify at his own trial as the defence rested its case after calling a single witness.

WARNING: This story contains disturbing details

Michael Rafferty pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm and kidnapping in the disappearance and death of eight-year-old Victoria (Tori) Stafford. (Dave Chidley/Canadian Press)

Michael Rafferty, the man accused of killing and raping Victoria (Tori) Stafford, did not testify at his own trial in London, Ont., as the defence finished its case after calling a single witness.

Rafferty, 31, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm and kidnapping.

Defence lawyer Dirk Derstine called only one witness, a woman who picked up her grandchildren at Tori's elementary school in Woodstock, Ont., on April 8, 2009, the day the eight-year-old disappeared.

The witness, whose name is protected by a publication ban, told jurors she noticed a woman wearing a white ski jacket walk into Oliver Stephens Public School around the time children were being let out for the day.

Victoria (Tori) Stafford disappeared outside her elementary school in Woodstock, Ont., on April 8, 2009. (Canadian Press)

"She just struck me as odd because everybody else was wearing spring jackets," the woman testified.

A short time later she saw the same female walking down the street with a young girl following behind.

The woman in the jacket appeared to be stern faced and was walking quickly "like she was on a mission," the witness said.

The girl, on the other hand, appeared to be happy, talking and skipping down the road.

When asked by Derstine how the woman felt about testifying for the defence she replied: "I'm not happy."

Stafford family 'altered forever'

Terri-Lynne McClintic, who pleaded guilty to Tori’s murder two years ago, testified at the start of the trial that she lured Tori away from the school on April 8, 2009. Surveillance video played at the trial showed she was wearing a white jacket.

However, McClintic said she waited outside Oliver Stephens Public School.

During cross-examination, prosecutor Michael Carnegie said that the temperature the day Tori disappeared was 8 C, which the woman said was on the cooler side.

The main courtroom was filled to capacity and several members of the public moved to the overflow room on another floor.

Derstine finshed the defence's case by reading out an agreed statement of facts that there were 326 students at Oliver Stephens Public School on April 8, 2009.

The jury will hear final arguments from the defence on Friday while the Crown will present on Monday.

Justice Thomas Heeney said he would deliver his instructions on Tuesday before the jury begins its deliberations.

Rodney Stafford, Tori's father, addressed the media outside during the lunch break, something he has done often throughout the trial.

Although the trial, which began March 5, may be drawing to a close, Stafford said, the ordeal is still not over for him or his family.

"Our lives have been altered forever," he said.

Crown finished its case last week

The Crown wrapped its case against Rafferty last week after calling dozens of witnesses over the last two months, including McClintic, who is currently serving a life sentence.

Prosecutors allege Tori was lured to Rafferty’s vehicle by McClintic on his urging. The pair then drove the girl to Guelph and eventually Mount Forest, about 100 kilometres north of Woodstock, where she was allegedly raped and killed, they argue.

Her remains were found more than three months later.

Jurors heard from cellphone experts who said Rafferty's BlackBerry had been used in Guelph and near Mount Forest on the afternoon and evening of Tori's disappearance.

A forensic biologist also testified that a DNA sample found in Rafferty's Honda Civic could not be excluded as a match to Tori.

McClintic provided chilling testimony earlier in the trial, telling jurors she kicked the girl and hit her head with a hammer after watching Rafferty sexually assault the Grade 3 student. Previously, however, McClintic told police that Rafferty was the one who killed the girl.

The defence has suggested McClintic was the "engine" behind the abduction and Rafferty was simply a horrified spectator.

Derstine presented a series of letters during his cross-examination of McClintic, in which the 21-year-old expressed a desire to torture and kill those who did her wrong, including the innocent family members of her perceived enemies.