WARNING: Graphic details from this court case may disturb some readers.
The major, if not sole, source of income for the man accused of killing eight-year-old Victoria Stafford was the thousands of dollars one of his many girlfriends earned working as an escort, court heard Friday.
Michael Rafferty was dating at least 15 women through the spring of 2009. Some just went on one or two dates with him then decided they weren’t interested, but to others he was their exclusive boyfriend, they have testified.
Charity Spitzig, a 26-year-old mother of four, testified Friday that she started dating Rafferty in April 2008, and that she was thinking of him as marriage material, wanting to include him in her family. Finances were a struggle, she said, so at one point they decided she should become an escort.
“From then on in any money I was making would go directly to him,” she testified at his first-degree murder trial.
Spitzig would deposit the money directly into Rafferty’s bank account, records show, for a total of $16,835 from December 2008 until May 2009, when he was arrested. She would also sometimes give him cash, she said.
Court has heard that Rafferty told most of the women he was dating that he was a dance instructor and ran a contracting business, but there has been no evidence called so far about any employment he may have had. He also told one woman he had a son, and told another that he had a stepson who had died, court heard.
Superior Court Judge Thomas Heeney gave the jury a warning about Spitzig’s testimony and that of the “long line” of other women.
“All of this may lead you to conclude that Mr. Rafferty was a philandering cad or worse,” Heeney said. “You cannot and you must not consider that because he has a bad character or character flaws that he is more likely to be guilty of the offences he is charged with.”
Rafferty, 31, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm and kidnapping in Tori’s death on April 8, 2009.
Spitzig chatted with Rafferty throughout that day, except for a one- or two-hour period when there was no response, she testified. Around 9 a.m. he told her he needed $400 for a car payment and in the early afternoon Rafferty messaged Spitzig again asking for $100 for gas money, she testified. She deposited both amounts.
Court has heard from Terri-Lynne McClintic, who pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in Tori’s death, that after they abducted Tori outside her school in Woodstock, Ont., Rafferty drove to Guelph, Ont., where he stopped at a house and bought a baggie full of Percocet pills using about $300 cash.
Surveillance footage and banking records show that Rafferty withdrew $80 around 5 p.m. from a gas station ATM in Guelph next to a Home Depot. McClintic testified that Rafferty then gave her cash and told her to go into the Home Depot and buy a hammer and garbage bags.
They also stopped at a Tim Hortons while they were in Guelph with Tori in the car, McClintic testified. Rafferty then drove to a secluded farmer’s field well north of the city where he sexually assaulted the girl then McClintic “snapped” and killed her using the hammer, McClintic testified. Until shortly before the start of Rafferty’s pre-trial this year McClintic had maintained Rafferty killed Tori.
In addition to chatting about money on April 8, Rafferty and Spitzig chatted about plans for the upcoming Easter weekend and birthday party plans for her twins, who are now eight years old, she testified.
Rafferty was also text messaging with another woman he was dating, Elysia Haid, 23, on April 8, mostly around noon then late at night, court heard. They were making plans to get together the next day, which they did when she stopped by his house and they had sex in the early afternoon, Haid testified.
Rafferty’s lawyer, Dirk Derstine, suggested to McClintic during her cross-examination that she was the “engine” behind the events of April 8, and that Rafferty was a “horrified” and unwitting spectator to McClintic’s plan to kidnap and murder a child over a drug debt. Court has heard that Tori’s mother bought OxyContin from McClintic’s mother on a few occasions, but both testified there was no debt.
Derstine pointed out to Haid that during her interview with police she seemed unsure as to whether they had sex on April 9 or 10, but she was adamant in testimony that it was April 9, the day before Good Friday.
Like most of the women Rafferty was dating, he met Haid through the dating website Plenty of Fish, she testified. They first met up April 4 when they went to a hockey game in London, Haid said.
That same day Rafferty also met Patrycja Demidas, 33, for coffee at about 5 p.m., she testified. Rafferty told her he was going to a hockey game and they agreed to meet up later that night for drinks, she said.
Rafferty visited her house the following day, then on April 6 she met him at a coffee shop, Demidas testified. Crown attorney Kevin Gowdey asked her what the end result was, “without getting into all the details and who said what.”
“I just wanted to not see him again,” Demidas testified.
He continued text messaging her on April 8 around noon, again around 8 p.m. and later at night. Demidas couldn’t recall the specific content of the messages, but said they would have been arguing about the end of their relationship.
Tara McLellan, 30, also testified Friday that she went on a date with Rafferty around that time after chatting with him on Plenty of Fish. They went on a coffee date to Tim Hortons on April 1 but didn’t go out again after that, she testified. He did, however, call her at 4:28 p.m. on April 8, phone records show, though McLellan doesn’t remember receiving the call.
The last time McLellan heard from Rafferty was when he sent her an angry email in response to some jokes she had forwarded him, she testified.
The trial resumes Tuesday with legal arguments and the jury is set to return Wednesday to hear more evidence.