Who actually killed Tori Stafford not key to convicting Rafferty, jury told

WARNING: This story contains disturbing details. Most of the testimony of the woman now serving time in the killing of schoolgirl Victoria (Tori) Stafford can be believed, despite her earlier lies to police, a Crown prosecutor tells the jury at the murder trial of Michael Rafferty in London, Ont.

WARNING: This story contains disturbing details.

Victoria (Tori) Stafford, seen here in this undated family photo with brother Daryn, disappeared outside her school on April 8, 2009. (Dave Chidley/Canadian Press)

Most of the testimony of the woman now serving time in the killing of schoolgirl Victoria (Tori) Stafford can be believed, despite her earlier lies to police, a Crown prosecutor tells the jury at the murder trial of Michael Rafferty in London, Ont.

Kevin Gowdey on Wednesday listed 25 things in Terri-Lynne McClintic's testimony that are backed up by evidence.

The big discrepancy in her testimony, compared to what she had previously told justice officials, was about who actually killed Tori. In initial interviews with police, she said Rafferty carried out the killing, but changed her story earlier this year. Gowdey said McClintic only changed her story in an attempt to avoid having to testify at her ex-boyfriend's trial.

Rafferty, 31, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm and kidnapping. His trial began on March 5.

The defence has suggested that McClintic, who has a violent past, was the one who planned everything leading up to Tori's death, and that Rafferty had no idea the little girl would be killed.

But Gowdey said Rafferty was the one in control of the events of April 8, 2009, and that the pair worked together to bring about Tori's death. On Tuesday, he described McClintic as a "violent pawn" acting on Rafferty's orders.

"Don't believe everything she says but do believe some things she says. She's not an innocent eyewitness," the prosecutor said.

Terri-Lynne McClintic and Michael Rafferty are alleged to have abducted Victoria (Tori) Stafford on April 8, 2009. (Canadian Press)

Gowdey told the jury there are several ways a person can be found guilty of first-degree murder, including killing someone in the course of a kidnapping or helping someone else commit a murder.

He said it doesn't matter whether McClintic or Rafferty was the one to actually kill Tori. If they acted together, that is enough to convict Rafferty, Gowdey said. In his closing argument, he referred to the pair as a "murderous duo" and a "terrible team."

Rafferty familiar with area where remains found

McClintic testified that Rafferty urged her to kidnap a young girl for him outside a Woodstock, Ont., school and that he raped Tori.

She told court that pent-up rage from her own childhood traumas caused her to snap and murder Tori with a hammer.

"Why would her rage drive her to kill the child and not the man who was sexually assaulting the child?" Gowdey asked in court Wednesday.

He added that if it was McClintic who dealt the fatal hammer blows, it was at the direction of Rafferty.

While the Crown prosecutor was speaking Wednesday, Rafferty at various times shook his head indicating he thought what Gowdey was saying was untrue. At one point, the accused mouthed the words "not true."

The prosecutor told jurors Rafferty visited his co-accused in a detention centre where she was in custody shortly after the Grade 3 student went missing to make sure she didn't rat him out.

Gowdey told jurors it was Rafferty who was familiar with the area where the eight-year-old girl's remains were discovered, more than three months after she disappeared outside her elementary school on April 8, 2009.

"It was he who drove her to her death, he drove her to the place of her death in the northern part of Wellington County," Gowdey told the court. "He was the one who knew this part of the country, not Terri-Lynne McClintic."

A witness testified last month that Rafferty worked at a landfill site five kilometres away from the field in Mount Forest, a small community 100 kilometres north of Woodstock, where a lone police investigator discovered Tori's partially clothed remains.

'Together they did this'

The Crown prosecutor said it's completely unrealistic to think that McClintic acted alone.

"Together they did this to Tori Stafford," Gowdey said. "Together they are guilty."

He said Rafferty visited McClintic regularly at the Genest Detention Centre, where she was placed shortly after Tori went missing, in order to maintain control over the teen and gather information in case police questioned him about the little girl's disappearance.

"This is a man at the top of his game, making sure his plan to cover their tracks is still succeeding," Gowdey told the court.

McClintic testified in March that she and Rafferty drove Tori to Guelph, to purchase painkillers and a hammer, and then to Mount Forest. McClintic told jurors she killed the girl by hitting her with the hammer after watching Rafferty rape the eight-year-old.

He said Rafferty directed McClintic throughout the abduction and instructed her to purchase the murder weapon from a Home Depot in Guelph.

Gowdey also reminded the jury of a statement McClintic made during her testimony. "I'm not the only guilty person in this courtroom," she had told the court.

McClintic a 'prolific' liar

The Crown is seeking to blunt the attack on McClintic's testimony, launched by defence lawyer Dirk Derstine. Derstine described her as a "prolific and accomplished liar" and pointed to a history of violent incidents during the defence's closing argument on Monday.

However, Gowdey said the defence's attack was focused only on her character and not the evidence presented during the trial.

Justice Thomas Heeney has warned jurors that closing arguments should not be taken as evidence when they begin deliberations.

The Crown wrapped up closing remarks Wednesday and the judge told jury members he will be giving them lengthy instructions Thursday before they begin deliberations.

With files from The Canadian Press