Tori Stafford murder trial at a glance

(WARNING: This story contains disturbing details.) Michael Rafferty has been convicted of first-degree murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm and kidnapping in the death of Victoria (Tori) Stafford. We review some of the most significant moments of the trial.

WARNING: This story contains disturbing details

In this artist's sketch, Terri-Lynne McClintic testifies at the trial of Michael Rafferty in London, Ont., on March 13, 2012. From left to right: McClintic, Crown attorney Kevin Gowdey, Ontario Superior Court Judge Thomas Heeney and Rafferty. (Tammy Hoy/Canadian Press)

—Michael Rafferty has been found guilty of first-degree murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm and kidnapping in the death of Victoria (Tori) Stafford, the eight-year-old girl who disappeared outside her Woodstock, Ont., school three years ago.

Tori, went missing April 8, 2009, and her body was found July 19, 2009, in a field in Mount Forest, Ont., about 100 kilometres from her hometown.

Rafferty, 31, had pleaded not guilty to all three of the charges he faced.

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

Rafferty and his girlfriend at the time, Terri-Lynne McClintic, were charged in connection with the death.

McClintic, now 21, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the case in April 2010 and was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.

She is one of several witnesses who have testified during Rafferty's trial.

This is a review some of the most significant moments of the trial.

The trial

March 5 — The trial begins, with Ontario Superior Court Judge Thomas Heeney presiding. Heeney warns the jury that they will hear "graphic and disturbing" evidence during the course of the trial, which is expected to last until June.

Crown attorney Kevin Gowdey tells jurors during opening remarks that the Crown will present video surveillance and BlackBerry records that link Rafferty to Victoria's disappearance and outlines the witnesses the Crown plans to call during the course of the trial. He says a pathologist will testify that Victoria died as a result of multiple hammer blows to the head and that the Crown will present DNA evidence connecting Rafferty's Honda Civic to Victoria's disappearance. Read the news story.

March 6 — The jury hears from Victoria's Grade 3 teacher, Jennifer Griffin-Murrell; the mother of one of her classmates, Laura Perry; and OPP Det. Const. Robin Brocanier, who oversaw the effort to obtain video surveillance from a high school near to Victoria's school in the days following her disappearance.

Perry tells the court that on the day Victoria disappeared, she saw her walking from Oliver Stephens Public School behind a young woman who appeared to be in a hurry. Police used information provided by Perry to make a composite sketch of the woman she saw, who, it was later established, was McClintic. Read the news story.

March 7 — Victoria's mother, Tara McDonald, describes the day her daughter disappeared, saying she did not start looking for Victoria until 4:30 p.m.

Tara McDonald, mother of slain Victoria Stafford, testified at the Rafferty trial on March 7, describing to the court the day her daughter disappeared. (Dave Chidley/Canadian Press)

She testifies she had contact with McClintic on two occasions — when she accompanied her partner, James Goris, to buy OxyContin from McClintic's mother and to discuss dog breeding. She tells the court she had a drug addiction and had used OxyContin on the day Victoria disappeared.

The court also hears from Staff Sgt. Paul Hess of the Woodstock police, who testifies that the police got notice of Victoria's disappearance at 6:04 p.m. and by the next day had called on other police forces in southwestern Ontario for assistance with the search and within a week, brought in the OPP.

OPP Const. Gary Scoyne lays out the scale of the investigation into Victoria's disappearance for the court. Read the news story.

March 8 — Det. Const. Sean Kelly of the Woodstock police testifies that Victoria's mother contacted police April 12 to tell them she recognized the woman in the surveillance video, which police had released, as Terri-Lynne McClintic. Kelly tells the jury police followed up on the information and found McClintic had an outstanding warrant for breach of a probation order, and they arrested her for the infraction and interviewed her about her whereabouts on the day Victoria disappeared. Read the news story.

March 13 — The Crown calls McClintic to testify. She describes in disturbing detail the abduction and killing of Victoria. The court hears how McClintic lured the girl into a waiting car with the promise of showing her a puppy and how she and Rafferty drove her to a rural area about 100 km north of Woodstock, stopping in Guelph along the way to purchase a hammer and garbage bags.

McClintic testifies that while it was Rafferty's idea to abduct Victoria and he was the one who sexually assaulted the young girl, it was McClintic who delivered the fatal hammer blows that killed her. This contradicts previous statements McClintic made to police.

Attendants from the Hendrick Funeral Home load Victoria's remains into a hearse after police found her body in a field near Mount Forest, Ont., on July 20, 2009. McClintic testified in court that she and Rafferty left Victoria's body under a pile of rocks in the field. (Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press)

The court hears about McClintic's troubled upbringing, her drug addiction and past criminal record. Read the news story.

March 14 — McClintic continues her testimony, describing the weeks following Victoria's death. She testifies that in the hours after the girl died, Rafferty told McClintic to "never speak about this again." Jurors are shown three pages from McClintic's journal that contain a series of questions she might be asked by police along with answers she could provide that were allegedly part of a "scenario" Rafferty prepared in case the two were questioned by police.

McClintic describes to the court her visits with Rafferty in juvenile detention, where she was being held in April and May 2009 for violating her probation order. She tells the court she told Rafferty at the time that she would take the rap for Victoria's killing since he had more to lose than she did. Read the news story.

March 15 — The jury is given a one-day break from trial proceedings while the lawyers and judge discuss a legal matter in the case. Read the news story.

March 16 — The Crown questions McClintic about the statement she made to police in 2009 claiming Rafferty was the one who bludgeoned Victoria to death, asking whether she wants to amend her court testimony, which contradicts that statement. After reviewing the statement, McClintic declines and says she lied in 2009 and that it was not Rafferty but she who killed the young girl.

She tells the court she changed her story because it took her a long time to accept that she was capable of doing something so heinous.

The jury is shown several excerpts from a video of McClintic's police interrogation in which she blames Rafferty for the death. Read the news story.

March 20 — The jury is given another one-day break as the lawyers and judge discuss a legal matter.

March 21 — The Crown wraps up its questioning of McClintic, with jurors being shown more clips from the video of her police interrogation from May 24, 2009.

Rafferty's defence lawyer, Dirk Derstine, has attempted to undermine McClintic's credibility in court, pointing out that she has changed her account of whether it was she or Rafferty who killed Victoria. (Dave Chidley/Canadian Press)

Defence lawyer Dirk Derstine begins his cross-examination of McClintic, questioning her about a series of letters she wrote from prison in 2007 and 2008 in which she expressed a desire to kill and torture others. Read the news story.

March 22 — Derstine questions McClintic about her relationship with Rafferty and her violent history and past assault charges. He also brings up the fact that her claim that she was the one who bludgeoned Victoria contradicts her initial testimony to police, in which she claimed Rafferty did the bludgeoning.

McClintic repeats what she told the Crown, that it has taken her a long time to accept her role in the killing of Victoria. Read the news story.

March 23 — Derstine attacks McClintic's previous testimony and suggests she, not Rafferty, was the driving force behind the abduction and subsequent killing of Victoria. Derstine accuses McClintic of planning the abduction and pushing Rafferty to take part.

The lawyer paints McClintic as someone capable of violence by describing an incident from her childhood in which she microwaved a dog and pointing to her love of violent-themed rap music.

The jury also hears from OPP Det. Const. Colin Darmon, who testifies that in the weeks following Victoria's disappearance, police received more than 5,000 tips. Several of them mentioned McClintic and described her as an associate of Victoria's mother and her partner.

Jurors hear an audio recording of a police interview with Rafferty from May 15, 2009, the first time he was questioned. In it, Rafferty tells police he and McClintic are only friends and that he has heard about Victoria's disappearance but doesn't know much about it. Read the news story.

March 27 — Rafferty's friend and former girlfriend, Barbara Armstrong, testifies she sold him drugs from her Guelph, Ont., home on the afternoon of April 8, 2009, about one hour after Tori went missing. She tells the court Rafferty appeared relaxed and that she saw a dark-haired woman in the car.

The Crown contends that Tori was in the car with McClintic and that Rafferty bought the drugs before driving to a Home Depot in Guelph and ultimately the rural area where the schoolgirl’s body was found.

The jury sees Rafferty's bank records, which show he withdrew $80 from an ATM near the Home Depot, and video of McClintic purchasing a hammer from the store with cash.

Armstrong testifies she saw Rafferty a few days after the eight-year-old's disappearance and he appeared "haggard" and "super stressed," although he also said he would help in the search to find the missing girl. Read the news story.

March 28 — Jurors hear from a woman who found a pair of shoes along a rural road north of Guelph in April 2009. The white and blue basketball shoes match the ones McClintic says she threw out of Rafferty's car as the two drove away after disposing of Tori's body. Read the story.

March 29 — No court proceedings.

March 30 — OPP Det. Staff Sgt. Jim Smyth testifies about his involvement in the investigation into Victoria's disappearance. He describes to the jury his interrogation of McClintic and how he and other officers took her along on their search for Victoria's body.

He testifies that when he drove out to Mount Forest on July 19, 2009, he was merely assessing the area and not expecting to find a body, but he recognized a house that seemed to be the one McClintic had described when talking about the area where Victoria was killed. Smyth followed a laneway near the house that eventually led him to the pile of rocks under which the girl's body was found.

Michael Rafferty's 2003 Honda Civic had no back seat when it was seized by police following his arrest on May 19, 2009. (Canadian Press)

The jury also hears from Const. Gary Scoyne, a forensic identification officer with the OPP who first testified at the trial on March 7. He presents a series of photographs of the rural area where Tori's remains were found and the state in which police found them. Read the news story.

April 2 — The jury visits the rural area in Mount Forest where Tori's remains were found and where her killing is alleged to have taken place. Jurors are given a guidebook prepared by the Crown and police that shows landmarks described in trial testimony and that appear in drawings McClintic had made for police to help in their search for Victoria's body.

Jurors spend about 30 minutes at the site before retuning to London. The judge had instructed them to use what they saw at the site not as evidence but to better understand testimony and evidence presented in court. View the news story.

April 3 —  Ervin Bauman, the owner of the land where Tori's body was discovered, testifies that the area where her remains were found is almost two kilometres from his home and is rarely used during the winter. His testimony is followed by that of  Michael Pollanen, chief forensic pathologist for the province of Ontario who performed the autopsy on Victoria's body.

Pollanen describes the nature of the girl's injuries and tells the court that determining whether or not she was sexually assaulted was beyond the scope of medical evidence, because of the extent of decomposition of her body. He testifies that although the autopsy revealed numerous rib fractures, liver damage and internal bleeding, it was several blows to the head that were the cause of death.

The jury, who had been warned by the judge that the pathology evidence would be graphic and that they could ask for a break in proceedings, is shown some of the autopsy photographs. Read the news story.

April 4 — During cross-examination, Pollanen testifies that his forensic analysis of Tori's injuries is unable to determine who inflicted the blows that killed her and that the "medical evidence is "silent" on the question of whether or not she was sexually assaulted.

The jury hears from OPP Sgt. John James Stirling, who describes the massive police operation launched to search for Tori. He testifies that officers sifted through hundreds of tonnes of garbage at a landfill, flew almost 1,000 kilometres in a helicopter and walked 51 kilometres along the shoulder of Highway 401 in an effort to locate the girl or clues to her disappearance. 

The jury hears from a number of police officers who were involved in the arrest of Rafferty on the evening of May 19, 2009, and from OPP Const. Scoyne, a forensic identification office who has testified on several occasions throughout the trial. Scoyne presents photos of items found in McClintic's home after her arrest, including a missing poster for Tori and a piece of paper with the phone number of Tori's mother  written on it. Read the news story.

April 5 — OPP Const. Scoyne returns to court and tells the jury that while executing a search warrant at Rafferty's home, police found a receipt for hair dye that had been purchased three days after Tori disappeared and matched a box of hair dye found in McClintic's home. He testifies that police also found a missing poster distributed during the search for Tori, a black pea coat and several water bottles.

McClintic had testified earlier that a black pea coat was used to cover Tori in the back seat of Rafferty's car and that Rafferty has used water bottles to clean himself after he allegedly raped Tori. Two bottle caps were found with the girl's remains.

Michael Rafferty, 31, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm and kidnapping. (Dave Chidley/Canadian Press)

A Crown document read to the court describes how two undercover police officers posing as inmates were put in the same jail cell as Rafferty after his arrest and told to listen to what he said. The document said Rafferty asked them whether they had drugs and admitted to using oxycontin and percocet, prescription pain medications that are also used as recreational drugs, on a daily basis. Read the news story.

April 10 — The trial adjourns for one day because Rafferty's defence lawyer is ill with the flu.

April 11 — The jury hears from several experts from the Ontario Centre of Forensic Sciences. Forensic biologist Jennifer McLean testifies that DNA testing revealed that a blood sample collected from Rafferty's  Honda Civic almost certainly came from Tori and that DNA found in a gym bag inside the car likely came from Tori, Rafferty and one other individual. McLean also testifies that a mixture of blood and semen was found on the back of the front passenger seat.

Barbara Doupe, a hair and fibre expert, testifies that a piece of fabric that appeared to have been cut with a knife was found in Rafferty's car. McClintic had testified earlier that Rafferty had instructed her to cut out a portion of his back seat and throw it out the window. Read the news story.

April 12 — Sarah Hodge, a woman Rafferty met on a dating website, testifies that in the days after Tori's disappearance Rafferty was constantly checking media reports about the case and claimed to have "inside information" on drug use by Tori's mother. She tells the court that Rafferty talked with her about how children who have been abducted can grow up thinking their abductors are their parents.

Hodge testifies that when she met Rafferty his car had no back seat.

The court also hears from a number of Rafferty's neighbours who said they saw a vehicle seat in front of his Woodstock home for garbage pickup sometime during the spring of 2009.

Under cross-examination, the forensic biologist who had testified a day earlier testifies that the DNA evidence collected from Rafferty's car could not determine when the samples were deposited and was unable to reveal whether Rafferty had raped Tori.

The jury also hears from a woman Rafferty asked out shortly before Tori's disappearance. She testifies that she ditched Rafferty after their first date because he seemed "really needy." Read the news story.

April 13 — The court hears from several female acquaintances of Rafferty. One ex-girlfriend testifies that while they were dating a few years ago, Rafferty often took her on drives down side roads in areas south of Mount Forest and seemed to know where he was going. Another woman tells the court that Rafferty consoled her during the girl's disappearance.

The jury hears again from Hodge, who testifies that after Tori disappeared, Rafferty changed his status on the dating website he used to "Bring Tori home."

McClintic pleaded guilty to the first-degree murder of Tori two years ago. (Canadian Press)

A former employer of Rafferty's tells the court that while employed at his landscaping business, Rafferty worked at one landfill site that was about five kilometres from where Tori was killed. Read the news story.

April 17 — Another woman who dated Rafferty around the time of Tori's disappearance testifies he appeared to be distraught after he was first interviewed by police concerning the girl's disappearance. Joy Woods tells jurors Rafferty was "very upset" after investigators spoke with him at his home in Woodstock on May 15, 2009.

Jennifer Etsell, who dated Rafferty in 2006, says she would often drive him from Guelph to her home in Hanover, a route that runs through Mount Forest and comes close to the field where Tori's body was found. Under cross-examination, Etsell explains they remained on the highway during their travels. Read the news story.

April 18 — The jury hears about Rafferty's online activities from OPP Det. Const. Leslie Waldron, including an entry on his Facebook page posted just hours before Tori disappeared that read: "Everything good is coming my way."

Jennifer Meloche — one of the more than a dozen women Rafferty dated in the spring of 2009, including seven he met after Tori's disappearance — testifies Rafferty talked about a "friend" named Terri who was in juvenile detention, an apparent reference to McClintic. Meloche says Rafferty thought police were treating him as "guilty by association" after his first interview with police because he knew her.

Meloche says Rafferty was constantly on his BlackBerry, checking his emails and sending text messages — a common observation reported by the women he was dating in 2009. Read the news story

April 19 — David Broad, senior manager for information security and digital forensics at Bell Canada, presents Rafferty's BlackBerry records, which show a number of data and voice calls were made in Woodstock, Guelph and near Mount Forest the day Tori disappeared. The location and time data, obtained from cellular towers, seem to match up with the timeline of events described by McClintic.

Under cross-examination, Broad explains that the data is only good at determining when a call was started and another radio transmission expert, Mustafa Bakhtyar, testifies that it cannot be used to pinpoint a person's location. Read the news story.

April 20 — A former girlfriend of Rafferty testifies that he asked her to work as an escort and she gave him almost $17,000 between December 2008 and May 2009. She told jurors she thought she was in an exclusive relationship with him between April 2008 and his arrest.

She said the two communicated frequently through BlackBerry messenger. On April 8, 2009, however, she said there were periods when Rafferty did not respond to her queries. Read the news story.

April 24 — Jurors are given a one-day break as a legal matter is discussed.

April 25 — OPP Det. Const. Gordon Johnson testifies that Rafferty kept in communication with McClintic in the days following Tori's disappearance, exchanging a number of texts and calls with a cellphone she used.

Rafferty also visited her in a juvenile detention centre after she was arrested on Apri 12, 2009, on an unrelated matter. Video shows the two appeared to be happy, laughing, smiling and hugging each other. Read the news story.

April 26 — The Crown wraps its case as a police expert in forensic video analysis, OPP Special Const. Gerald Lanna, says Rafferty's Honda Civic cannot be excluded as the vehicle seen driving in the area of Oliver Stephens Public School just moments before McClintic is seen leading Tori away.

Lanna says he was able to more positively identify Rafferty's car at a nearby Esso station around 3:20 p.m. on the day Tori disappeared. Read the news story.

May 1 — The defence calls a single witness, a woman who picked up her grandchildren from Oliver Stephens Public School the day Tori disappeared, ending speculation Rafferty would testify. The grandmother, whose name is protected by a publication ban, tells jurors she saw a woman matching McClintic's description enter the school and later saw her walking down the street with a young girl.

Michael Rafferty's mother, Deborah Murphy, told the media outside the courthouse on May 7 that her son is not guilty of killing Tori Stafford. (Dave Chidley/Canadian Press)

Defence lawyer Derstine also reads out an agreed statement of facts that said there was 326 students at Tori's school the day she vanished. Read the news story.

May 7 —  Derstine tells the jury that McClintic is an "accomplished liar" with a history of violence during his closing argument. Taking aim at McClintic's credibility and the prosecution's case, the defence lawyer argues that McClintic was the engine behind Stafford's abduction and death.

Rafferty's mother, Deborah Murphy, spoke to reporters outside the courthouse, saying her son is not guilty. Read the news story.

May 8 — The Crown begins closing arguments as the trial nears its end. Prosecutor Kevin Gowdey reviews much of the evidence presented so far, suggesting Rafferty was in control during the alleged abduction of Tori. Gowdey says McClintic was a "violent pawn" used by Rafferty.

Rodney Stafford, who has been present throughout most of the trial, leaves during the middle of the proceedings saying it was too difficult to hear about the last moments of his daughter's life. Read the news story.

May 9 — The Crown wrapped up its closing argument, with Gowdey telling the jury that most of the testimony of the woman now serving time in the killing of schoolgirl Victoria (Tori) Stafford can be believed. Read the story.

May 10 — The jury begins deliberations after Justice Heeney issued his final instructions in the London courtroom.Read the news story

May 11 — Rafferty is found guilty of first-degree murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm and kidnapping in the death of Tori Stafford. Read the story. 

May 15 —  Rafferty is sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. At the sentencing hearing at a London, Ont., courthouse, Rafferty apologized to Tori's family but maintained he is not guilty of the three charges levelled against him in this case. Tori's family members were also given a chance to detail their suffering when victim impact statements were read in court.  Read the story. 

With files from The Canadian Press