Timeline: Victoria ‘Tori’ Stafford murder

Timeline: Victoria ‘Tori’ Stafford murder - image

WARNING: Some of the content presented will be graphic and explicit in nature.

TORONTO – Michael Rafferty is appealing his conviction last May for raping and killing eight-year-old Victoria Stafford of Woodstock, Ontario in 2009.

Lawyer Paul Calarco attempted to convince an Ontario court that the jury which convicted Rafferty should have considered whether he was merely an accessory after the fact to her murder.

Rafferty is serving life in prison with no parole for at least 25 years.

Global News takes a look at the Victoria Stafford file – a case that continues to rivet Canadians nationwide.

April 8, 2009: Victoria Stafford is last seen in the afternoon walking home from school, but she never arrives. An AMBER Alert is not issued.

Oxford County Police Service

April 10, 2009: Police appeal for the woman in the video to come forward. A Woodstock fire department rescue boat searches for any evidence of Stafford.April 9, 2009: Surveillance camera footage from a local high school surfaces, capturing what police say was the child and an unidentified woman. Victoria does not appear to be struggling in the video. The woman is described as between 19 and 25, white, five-foot-two and about 125 pounds with a black ponytail. Stafford’s grandparents offer a $10,000 reward for her return.

A Woodstock fire department rescue boat searches a pond in a park for any evidence of missing 8 year-old Victoria “Tori” Stafford in Woodstock, Ontario, April 10, 2009. Dave Chidley / The Canadian Press

April 11, 2009: Cst. Laurie-Anne Maitland of the Oxford Community Police says that there have been many questions about why an Amber alert was not issued. “At the time of the call coming in, we didn’t have what was required for an Amber alert – not even close.” A Facebook group – Find Victoria Stafford – already has 10,000 members.

April 12, 2009: Hundreds gather in Woodstock at 8 p.m. to hold a vigil for Stafford. Tori’s mother makes a tearful appeal for her daughter to contact her family. “Anywhere, anyway that she can get back to us, if she can call or get away, find a way to come home,” said Tara McDonald.

April 13, 2009: Police call off the ground search after finding no clues. Const. Maitland says: “I think the feeling among police is, yes, she is (alive), and I am happy to report that feeling.”

April 14, 2009: Stafford’s classmates return to school for the first time since her disappearance.

April 15, 2009: Parents reveal they took lie detector tests on the weekend. America’s Most Wanted features Stafford’s case as its top story.

April 17, 2009: It is announced that Ontario Provincial Police take over the search. Det. Insp. William Renton says the case is now officially classified as an abduction, not just a missing person.

Tara McDonald speaks to a throng of media outside her home and says she believes her daughter is still alive. “I’m her mother, I know her better than anyone else on the planet,” she said.

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April 21, 2009: Police release a composite sketch of the woman in the video.

April 22, 2009: Rodney Stafford says he believes he recognizes the woman in the sketch, but Tara McDonald says she is not familiar with her.

May 3, 2009: Rodney Stafford lashes out on Facebook. “If by chance the persons responsible for the disappearance of Victoria are reading this I hope you are scared, nervous or whatever your sick minds are feeling right now. But know this…Daddy and the world are coming for Victoria.”

May 4, 2009: Police release video footage of a dark coloured station wagon being driven on the same street where Victoria Stafford was last seen walking with a woman.

May 8, 2009: Tara McDonald says she is tired of gossip and rumours that she is somehow involved in the disappearance of her child and urges people to focus on Tori.

May 12, 2009: McDonald reads an open letter to her missing daughter, and urges her to stay strong.

May 15, 2009: Stafford’s parents fight publicly in a daily media conference. Stafford lashed out at his ex-wife for displaying a lack of emotion, while she countered he was able to cry for the cameras because he feels guilty for being an absentee father. McDonald later speaks in more detail about her past addiction to drugs, saying she used OxyContin two to three times a week but started going to a methadone clinic two years prior because she wanted to gain control of her life. Suspicions that her daughter’s disappearance is related to a drug debt are unfounded, McDonald says.

May 18, 2009: Family members and supporters walk in the Victoria Day parade in Woodstock

May 20, 2009: Two arrests are made. Michael Thomas C.S. Rafferty, 28, and Terri-Lynne McClintic, 18, appear in court. Both are charged with abduction. Rafferty is charged with murdering Stafford on April 8. McClintic is charged with knowingly aiding and enabling Rafferty. Rafferty and McClintic are scheduled to appear in court on May 28 in Woodstock.

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July 21, 2009: Ontario Provincial Police confirm that human remains found in a secluded country field two days earlier have been “positively identified” as those of Stafford. Her remains were found by a veteran police investigator searching on his own in a rural field about 500 metres off Concession No. 6, just east of Mount Forest, Ont., about 130 kilometres northwest of Toronto.

April 30, 2010: McClintic pleads guilty to first-degree murder in a Woodstock courtroom. She apologizes to the family and is sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. Her plea is subject to a strict publication ban.

May 20, 2010: Ontario Superior Court Justice Dougald McDermid extends the temporary publication ban over concerns lifting it would result in a “miscarriage of justice.” In editorials and in court, media companies say the sweeping ban is too far-reaching.

August 8, 2010: Tori’s father, Rodney Stafford, and brother Daryn complete a 3,500 kilometre charity bike ride from Woodstock to Edmonton in her honour.

December 9, 2010: The publication ban is partially lifted after the Supreme Court refuses to hear an application to extend it. It’s revealed that McClintic pleaded guilty months earlier.

February 7, 2011: Lawyers for the Crown and defence agree to a change of venue for Rafferty’s trial over concerns he would not get a fair trial in Woodstock.

March 4, 2011: Ontario Superior Justice Thomas Heeney chooses London, Ont., as the venue for Rafferty’s trial.

January 17, 2012: Pre-trial motions begin in Rafferty’s trial. All motions are placed under an automatic publication ban.

February 17, 2012: Heeney rules that Rafferty will sit in the prisoner’s dock throughout the trial due to security issues and that the jury will visit the scene where Stafford’s remains were found; and on rules governing media coverage of the trial.

February 27, 2012: Jury selection begins. The weeklong process will screen hundreds of people as prospective members of the 12-person jury.

February 28, 2012: Crown and defence lawyers will begin picking a jury Wednesday from a pool of 90 people who remain following the first stage of jury selection. Potential jurors were told the trial is expected to last between 2 1/2 and three months, possibly extending into June.

February 29, 2012: Michael Rafferty pleads not guilty in a London, Ont., court to kidnapping, sexual assault and first-degree murder after being formally arraigned on the charges in the death of Stafford.

Lawyers start selecting a jury today after a pool of hundreds was whittled down over the past two days to 116 people.

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March 1, 2012: A jury of nine women and three men is selected to try the case of a man accused of killing an eight-year-old girl.

Jurors are told the trial is expected to last between 2 1/2 and three months, possibly extending into June.

March 5, 2012: A jury in southwestern Ontario is warned they will hear and see evidence in the Stafford case that many would find “graphic and disturbing.”

Crown attorney Kevin Gowdey, in his opening statement, warned the jury it will be a difficult story for them to hear.

Gowdey say he will put evidence before the jury that Tori died from multiple hammer blows to the head.

March 6, 2012:  Tori’s teacher cries as she tells the court that the bubbly little girl left school shortly after her classmates on April 8, 2009, because she went back to get a pair of butterfly earrings.

Stafford’s father later tells media the testimony was very emotional and predicts the rest of the trial of the man accused of kidnapping, sexually assaulting and killing his daughter will be just as emotional every day.

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March 7, 2012: Tori’s mother, Tara McDonald testifies that she crossed paths before with the woman convicted of the eight-year-old’s murder when she bought drugs at her house. McDonald tells the court that she was addicted to OxyContin when Tori disappeared and had taken some that day. Under cross-examination by Rafferty’s lawyer, McDonald says there is no way Tori would have wandered off with a stranger.

March 8, 2012: A police officer from Woodstock, Ont., breaks down in tears on the stand as he describes learning that Tori Stafford was dead. Det. Const. Sean Kelly was part of the investigation.

March 13, 2012: The two people at the centre of the Stafford murder trial met just months before the Grade 3 student was abducted and killed, a jury heard Tuesday.

Terri-Lynne McClintic and Michael Rafferty met at a pizza shop in February 2009, went for a drive and had sex in his car, McClintic testified at Rafferty’s first-degree murder trial.

“He was somebody I cared for,” McClintic said when asked about their relationship, which she said included sex on three more occasions – including once in a movie theatre – and buying OxyContin for Rafferty.

March 14, 2012: On stand for the second day, McClintic tells the court she would “take the fall” if the investigation into Tori’s death led to her.

McClintic tells the jury that after leaving the scene of the murder in Mount Forest, she and Rafferty made several stops, including a car wash where they cleaned and shampooed the car.

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When McClintic got home, she told the court she took OxyContin.

“I cooked up a couple pills,” McClintic said.

March 16, 2012: McClintic is asked if she would like to review previous statements given to police about how Tori died.
She said she remembered her statements clearly but “it couldn’t hurt” to review her previous statements.

After a break of roughly an hour, McClintic reasserted something first said on Tuesday – that she was the only one to wield the hammer that killed Tori.

March 21, 2012: After a day of talks with lawyers, the judge rules jurors can consider a controversial videotape as evidence against Michael Rafferty.

March 22, 2012: Four days after Terri-Lynne McClintic says she lured Tori away from her elementary school and killed her, the teenager sat in a police station watching surveillance video of the abduction, laughing, saying there was “no way in hell” that was her.

McClintic says at that point she was psychologically unable to fathom she had killed a girl, so she had blocked it out and genuinely believed it was not her on tape.

March 23, 2012: Rafferty was just a horrified spectator to Terri-Lynne McClintic’s master plan to kidnap and murder Tori over a drug debt, turning down McClintic’s offering of the girl as a sexual “gift,” the defence suggests in court.

March 27, 2012: Court hears that the man accused of killing Tori was “stressed out” in the days after her disappearance.
Barbara Armstrong, who lives in Guelph, Ont., testifies she sold Rafferty some percocets on April 8, 2009, and that she saw a young woman sitting in the passenger seat of his car.

The Crown alleges Rafferty and Terri-Lynne McClintic made several stops that day, after abducting and killing Tori in a rural area near Mount Forest, Ont.

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March 28, 2012:Shoes that McClintic says she wore when Tori was killed were the focus at the first-degree murder trial of McClintic’s former boyfriend.
McClintic testified earlier at Michael Rafferty’s trial that after Tori was killed north of Guelph, Ont., he instructed her to throw her shoes out the car window on a sideroad.

March 30, 2012: Ontario Provincial Police Det. Staff Sgt. Jim Smyth testifies and says he wasn’t searching for Tori that day, but came across a scene that looked very familiar.

Smyth says police learned on July 17, 2009, that Rafferty’s cellphone had pinged off a tower near Mount Forest, Ont., on the evening of April 8, 2009 – the day Tori was killed.

Smyth decided to drive through the rural area two days later to get an idea of the landscape, then saw a house that was nearly identical to a house McClintic had described.

He says he drove down a laneway across from the house, saw a rock pile as McClintic had described, and smelled the odour of decomposition.

April 2, 2012: Jurors visit the scene near Mount Forest, Ont. where Tori was allegedly sexually assaulted and murdered.

Superior Court Judge Thomas Heeney tells jurors that what they will see there is not evidence, but is to give them a better understanding of the evidence after seeing the scene for themselves.

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April 3, 2012: Dr. Michael Pollanen, Ontario’s chief forensic pathologist, testifies about the autopsy he performed on Tori.
Ontario Superior Court Justice Thomas Heeney says the evidence “cannot help but tug at your heartstrings” but warns jurors against allowing their emotions to cloud their judgment.

April 4, 2012: The co-ordinator for the Ontario Provincial Police’s search-and-rescue operations says the search for Tori was likely the largest ever in Canada.

Sgt. John Stirling testifies about the massive effort to find the eight-year-old girl.

April 5, 2012: Court hears that Rafferty had a poster of the missing eight-year-old tucked away in a drawer in his kitchen.

April 10, 2012: Scientists who ran DNA and other tests on several items of evidence take the stand.

April 11, 2012: A mixture of blood from at least two different people on the rubber moulding of the back passenger side door on Michael Rafferty’s car was found to contain DNA matching the eight-year-old girl’s profile, court hears.

April 12, 2012: A missing back seat from Rafferty’s car is the focus, as neighbours and ex-girlfriends give somewhat conflicting testimony about when the seat was last in his car.

The back seat was gone when police arrested Rafferty in May 2009, and various people have testified about seeing it in the car at points throughout the spring of that year.

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But it remains unclear whether it was there on April 8, the day Rafferty allegedly kidnapped Tori in his car with Terri-Lynne McClintic.
April 17, 2012: Court hears that a route Rafferty frequently travelled with an ex-girlfriend took him within a couple of minutes of where the eight-year-old girl was killed.

April 18, 2012: A friend of Michael Rafferty’s says he felt police considered him guilty by association in the death of Tori.

Jessica Meloche, one of several women Rafferty was dating in the spring of 2009, is testifying in a London court.

She says Rafferty felt targeted by police due to his relationship with Terri-Lynne McClintic, who was quickly identified as a suspect in the girl’s disappearance.

April 19, 2012: The London courtroom hears that on the night Tori was killed, Rafferty appears to have placed a call to his voice-mail from the Mt.Forest.

Voice and data records collected by investigators also show Rafferty’s cell phone travelling north through Guelph toward Mt. Forest on April 8 – the day Tori was abducted and killed.

Investigators were able to pinpoint the location of a call made to Rafferty’s voice mail at 7:47p.m. by using cell phone and cell tower records.

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April 20, 2012: Court hears that Rafferty received much of his money from a girlfriend who was working as an escort at the time of the murder.

Rafferty had been dating Charity Spitzig, a 26-year old mother of four, and in an effort to improve their finances, they decided Spitzig would begin working as an escort and give some money to Rafferty.

Banking records shown in court suggest that between December 2008 and May 2009 Spitzig gave Rafferty $16,835.

April 24, 2012: The jury does not sit as the trial heard legal arguments; nothing reported until they begin to deliberate. The trial is expected to resume Wednesday in the presence of the jury.

April 25, 2012: The trial resumes, after a day of legal arguments. It’s expected that the last few witnesses in the Crown’s case against Rafferty will be heard in the coming days before the defence presents its case.

April 26, 2012:  The Crown wraps up its case Rafferty. The defence will start presenting its case Tuesday in the trial of Michael Rafferty.

May 1, 2012: Raferty’s lawyer tells the court he will be calling one witness in his client’s defence. Her name cannot be revealed because of a publication ban. Rafferty opts not to testify in his own defence.

May 7, 2012: The defence presents its closing arguments. Rafferty’s lawyer, Dirk Derstine, is expected to repeat in his argument today a suggestion that Terri-Lynne McClintic was the “engine” behind the day’s events.

May 8, 2012: The Crown prosecuting the man accused of killing Tori is telling the jury he was no bystander to his girlfriend’s “deranged” plan.

Kevin Gowdey told the trial of Michael Rafferty in his closing arguments today that Rafferty and Terri-Lynne McClintic worked together to bring about Tori’s death.

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May 9, 2012: As the crown continues their final arguments against the man accused of killing Tori Stafford, they urge the jury to think about what the 8-year old girl must have gone through during the kidnapping.

For the first time in the trial, Tori’s father Rodney, does not come to listen to the proceedings.

May 10, 2012: Superior Court Judge Thomas Heeney completes a lengthy charge to the jury before the nine women and three men retire to consider Rafferty’s fate. Once the jury is sequestered, a publication ban is lifted on evidence that the jury did not hear during the trial. Among that evidence, details of child pornography found on Rafferty’s laptop and a four-hour video of Rafferty’s interrogation by police.  The nine women and three men were sequestered to consider the verdicts at about 5:40 PM ET and ended for the night at about 8:40 PM ET with a one-hour dinner break.

May 11, 2012: The jury enters its first full day of deliberations.  The group asked to rewatch McClintic’s police interview.  Several hours after reviewing the video, jurors sent a second question to Judge Heeney, asking, “Does removing a child’s underclothing in an unlawful confinement situation constitute a sexual assault?”

The judge’s answer: Yes, because it is an application of force to the child, regardless of whether it’s in a confinement situation.

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At the request of jurors, Heeney also issued a clarificiation of his final instructions, telling them, “If you totally reject evidence that points to innocence, meaning you neither believe it nor does it even leave you with a reasonable doubt, that does not amount to affirmative evidence of guilt.  You still have to look at all the rest of the evidence that you do accept to see if you are satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the Crown has proven its case.”

At around 9:10 PM ET, the jury announced it had reached a verdict.  Minutes later, it was revealed Rafferty had been found guilty on all three counts.  Rafferty stayed calm as the verdict was read.  Derstine said he hopes Rafferty got a fair trial, and that he worked hard to ensure a fair trial.

Rafferty will be sentenced Tuesday, May 15.  Victim impact statements will be read that day as well.

May 15, 2012: Rafferty is formally sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. He was also sentenced to 10 years to be served concurrently for sexual assault causing bodily harm and kidnapping.

August 2, 2012: Rafferty claims the jury in London, Ontario did not understand the standards of evidence needed for a first-degree murder conviction and says he is is appealing his conviction.

June 10, 2013: Rafferty is to appear by video at Ontario’s highest court as part of an attempt to appeal his conviction.

August 12, 2013: Rafferty appears in court again to ask for public lawyer to represent him during appeal.

December 2, 2013: A lawyer argues the jury that convicted Michael Rafferty of killing Tori Stafford, 8, should have considered whether he was merely an accessory after the fact to her murder. Rafferty also attempts to receive public money to fund his appeal.

– With files from The Canadian Press


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