Judge dismisses appeal by convicted killer Michael Rafferty in murder of Tori Stafford
TORONTO -- Ontario's highest court dismissed an appeal Monday by the man convicted of killing eight-year-old Victoria Stafford.
Michael Rafferty was sentenced to life in prison in 2012 with no chance of parole for 25 years for kidnapping, sexual assault causing bodily harm and first-degree murder in the death of the Woodstock, Ont., girl.
Rafferty's accomplice, Terri-Lynne McClintic, pleaded guilty in 2010 to first-degree murder.
Rafferty's lawyer, Paul Calarco, argued that the judge made several errors, including failing to warn the jury against relying on the testimony of McClintic, claiming she could have been the driving force behind the murder.
But the appeal court judges dismissed Rafferty's appeal before hearing the Crown's oral submissions.
"You argued an extremely difficult appeal very well, but I simply don't agree with you," said Appeal Court Justice John Laskin.
Among those on hand to hear the appeal were Victoria's mother, father, uncle, family friends and Woodstock Police Chief Bill Renton, who used to be with the Ontario Provincial Police and was the lead investigator on Victoria's murder. Family and supporters cheered when the judges dismissed the appeal.
"We were here wasting taxpayers' money, to be quite honest," said Victoria's father, Rodney Stafford. "We really had no reason to be here. All the information that was put forward in 2012 landed him where he was and that's exactly where he deserves to be."
The court will issue its reasons for the dismissal later, but Laskin expressed skepticism at most of Calarco's arguments.
Calarco argued that some of Rafferty's actions after the killing -- such as cleaning his car, disposing of clothing and giving a false alibi -- were "equally consistent" with being an accessory after the fact.
But Laskin said they were "not equally consistent on this record, Mr Calarco -- not even close to being equally consistent."
McClintic told court a horrifying story of a drug-addled couple abducting a young girl at random for the man's sexual pleasure, then killing her with inconceivable brutality. She claimed Rafferty was directing her every step of the way, ordering her to snatch a young girl for him, making her buy a hammer and garbage bags then getting her to help him clean up at the murder scene.
Rafferty's lawyer suggested he was an innocent dupe to a plan concocted entirely by McClintic, but the Crown at trial argued it didn't matter whether McClintic or Rafferty physically killed the girl -- he was guilty because they acted together.