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This article was published 15/5/2012 (1620 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
LONDON, Ont. -- The powerful and angry words of the judge presiding over Michael Rafferty's case rang through the courtroom Tuesday -- "twisted," "deviant," "child rapist" -- but the words of Victoria Stafford's brother left the largest impact, even on the "monster" himself.
When eight-year-old Tori was abducted on April 8, 2009, her brother Daryn was 10 years old. Several of Tori's family members gave victim impact statements at Rafferty's formal sentencing, talking about the pain her death has caused, but they all kept coming back to Daryn, the big brother who feels he was supposed to protect Tori.
"No hugs, no 'See you later,' no goodbyes, just a part of my heart ripped out," Daryn wrote in his statement. "My sister was the only person I had to talk to, someone that felt what I felt, cried when I cried, laughed when I laughed, and now I feel alone, like the world is playing a sick trick on me. But it's not. This is my reality."
Rafferty, who was found guilty on Friday of first-degree murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm and kidnapping, wiped away tears as a Crown attorney read Daryn's statement.
Rafferty was asked if he had anything to say before being sentenced to life in prison, the automatic penalty for first-degree murder. He stood up and addressed Tori's mother Tara McDonald directly, saying he would give her "all the pieces of the puzzle," if she wanted to hear them away from the court, media and spectators.
She said outside court she would not be taking him up on his offer.
Rafferty didn't testify in his own defence, leaving only his former girlfriend and accomplice Terri-Lynne McClintic's account of what happened. He said Tuesday he is "guilty of many crimes" and has done things he is "very, very ashamed of" but maintained he isn't guilty of those three crimes. At trial, his lawyer suggested McClintic was responsible for what happened to Tori.
"I do believe that I am a very definite part of why Victoria's not here today," Rafferty said Tuesday. "Hopefully, everybody can find some closure of some sort to me being sentenced to life. I'm truly sorry to the entire family, not that it has much bearing to any of you coming from my mouth, but it's still true."
Superior Court Judge Thomas Heeney ordered Rafferty to stand up as he said now that the presumption of innocence has been stripped away, it has been revealed who Rafferty truly is: "a child abductor, a child rapist and a child murderer."
"You have snuffed out the life of a beautiful, talented, vivacious little girl, a 'tomboy diva' in the trustful innocence of childhood," Heeney said. "And for what? So that you could gratify your twisted and deviant desire to have sex with a child. Only a monster could commit an act of such pure evil.
"You, sir, are a monster."
Rafferty, who has been in custody since May 19, 2009, will be eligible to apply for parole after 25 years. He will also be able to apply for parole under the faint-hope clause after 15 years. He was sentenced to 10 years to be served concurrently for sexual assault causing bodily harm and kidnapping.
The court was packed with family members and reporters, and even nine members of the jury returned to see Rafferty be sent to prison for life. They appeared emotional after the victim impact statements, particularly Daryn's.
Victoria's father, Rodney Stafford, stared at Rafferty as he read his statement and, unable to control his anger, fixed his gaze on Rafferty and called him a "piece of s--t."
"Now our only means of communicating with Victoria is tearful whispers through her headstone where her remains were laid to rest," Stafford said.
Tori's mother cried as she spoke of the pain of missing her baby.
"People say how strong I am," she said. "But what choice do I really have? It pales in comparison to the pain that was inflicted on an innocent little girl."
McClintic pleaded guilty two years ago to first-degree murder, admitting she lured Tori away with the promise of seeing a dog and delivered her to Rafferty for repeated sexual assaults.
-- The Canadian Press
LONDON, Ont. -- Text of the written statement presented in court on behalf of Victoria Stafford's older brother, Daryn Stafford:
When I was asked to write my statement, I didn't know what to write. What is there to write when there are no words to describe the impact this whole thing has left on me.
Not everyone knows how it feels to have your world ripped out from under you in less than a day. No hugs, no 'see you later,' no goodbyes, just a part of my heart ripped out. Not one person can say they feel the same as me.
My sister was the only person I had to talk to, someone that felt what I felt, cried when I cried, laughed when I laughed, and now I feel alone, like the world is playing a sick trick on me. But it's not, this is my reality. No more fun times, just old memories, no more 'I love yous,' just an empty spot in my heart.
On top of that loss, I have a dad who is also dealing with thoughts around this, a mom who is an addict because she doesn't know how to cope with her own emotions surrounding (this), and a totally fractured family.
I can't even talk to someone and know if they like me for who I am or because they feel bad that I'm Victoria Stafford's brother.
On top of that, I now have really strong anxiety problems. I can't walk by myself without watching behind me. I can't sleep because of nightmares and my fear of the dark, and I can't be alone.
The first question (on the victim impact form) is, 'Have there been any changes to your family? How would you describe your family relationships?' To answer that in full honesty, my family is torn. My mom and dad cannot get along. They never have, but now they can't even for me. My dad's side of my family can't stand each other and the same with my mom's.
In the past three years, I have missed dozens of days of school because of counselling sessions and a psychiatrist. I can't concentrate most days because my mind is always somewhere else. I have to take walks and talk to my teachers because a lot of the time, I can't control my emotions. I don't even want to go out for sports teams because of my anxiety and my low self-esteem and confidence.
The booklet says, 'Was anything taken from you?' It's obviously asking about property, but something was taken from me. My baby sister was taken from me, and that's not something I can go buy at a store to replace.
My last memory I have of Tori was only a few minutes before she went missing. We were arguing like any brother and sister, but when school was done and we parted, I didn't know I would never get to see her again. And it was weird because it felt like something was wrong. I could feel it. Now I am lost without her, trying to move on without my baby sister and best friend.
Statement Michael Rafferty delivered in court:
I wanted to come to this courtroom defending myself and after hearing the victim impact statements I think there's something more important to say.
To Tara McDonald: For the past three years I've had so much to say on my behalf. Nobody has all the pieces of the puzzle and I'm willing to give you those pieces if you'd like them.
I know this has been a long ordeal for everybody and I'm glad that it's come to an end and hopefully everybody can find some closure of some sort to me being sentenced to life.
I'm truly sorry to the entire family, not that it has much bearing to any of you coming from my mouth, but it's still true.
I've stayed quiet this entire trial, thinking it was for my defence, thinking it was for the better. But I do have something to say and that is for Tara McDonald alone without the media, without spectators, so at least you know it will be true, or as true as you're willing to believe it without other people listening and without it being to my benefit. I still disagree with the conviction of these three charges. I am guilty of many crimes and there are a lot of things I'm very, very ashamed of, but these three counts I still stand firmly behind not guilty.
As I said, I would fill in the blanks for you if you wish, however that can be seen through the courts or the institution where I'll be staying.
To your son, I believe that impact statement hit me the hardest. I can only imagine if something like that came from the words or came from the mouth of my own son. I have lost a child before but I have no idea what you have gone through. I cannot imagine what you have gone through, for that I'm very sorry.
As I said, I am standing behind not guilty of these convictions. Notwithstanding, though, I do believe that I am a very definite part of why Victoria's not here today. Once again I'm very sorry, not that half of you, or any of you may believe me, but as I said, I've stayed quiet thinking that that was to my defence, not thinking of how it may impact the family of Victoria Stafford. That's all I have to say.
-- The Canadian Press
COMMENTS of Superior Court Judge Thomas Heeney in sentencing Michael Rafferty Tuesday:
Mr. Rafferty was not convicted based on his character, he was convicted based on his conduct. Character evidence is presumptively inadmissible under our law for a reason. Character evidence speaks volumes about his deviant nature, but that is more relevant to who he is, as opposed to what he did. Being a pervert does not mean that he is a murderer.
... But with the verdict of the jury, that presumption of innocence has been stripped away, revealing who he really is: a child abductor; a child rapist; and a child murderer.
Mr. Rafferty, please stand up.
Your crimes have destroyed the lives of Victoria Stafford's parents, her brother, her extended family and her loved ones. They have terrorized an entire community, who had thought its children could safely walk its streets, little knowing that people such as you lurked among them. That you were brought to justice is due entirely to the most massive and extraordinary mobilization of police resources that this province, and probably this country, has ever seen...
But most tragically of all, you have snuffed out the life of a beautiful, talented, vivacious little girl, a "tomboy diva" in the trustful innocence of childhood. And for what? So that you could gratify your twisted and deviant desire to have sex with a child. Only a monster could commit an act of such pure evil. You, sir, are a monster."
-- The Canadian Press