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Defence tells jury to overlook Rafferty's 'moral flaws'

WARNING: Details from this court case may disturb some readers.

Terri-Lynne McClintic is like Jekyll and Hyde, casting herself as an unwilling participant in her lover’s scheme to abduct a child, when in fact the bloodthirsty young woman, teeming with rage, sought out Victoria Stafford and savagely murdered her, Michael Rafferty’s lawyer suggested Monday.

For her to have told the jury otherwise is “absurd,” Rafferty’s lawyer Dirk Derstine said in his closing address.

Read full coverage of the trial here. Francis D’Souza is in London, Ont., for the trial. You can follow his updates @cityfrancis.

Rafferty’s murder trial, now in its 10th week, is winding down with closing arguments this week from the defence and the Crown. He has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm and kidnapping.

Deborah Murphy, Rafferty’s mother, did not speak to media at the time of Tori’s disappearance in the spring of 2009, nor has she attended throughout the trial, but Monday she sat in court for the defence closing submissions and said outside court that Rafferty isn’t guilty.

McClintic, one of Rafferty’s former girlfriends, testified at his trial that she abducted Tori at Rafferty’s urging, he raped the child and then McClintic killed her. That testimony marked a change from what she told police for years — that Rafferty was the one who killed Tori with a hammer — but Derstine suggested that is the one part of her story that should be believed.

The rest, he scoffed, is a fiction invented by a “prolific and accomplished liar.” McClintic, who has a proven history of violence and torture ideation, was the true engine behind Tori’s death, Derstine said.

She is the one who lived near Tori, who would have walked by the girl’s house, Derstine said. Of the at least 15 elementary schools in Woodstock, Ont., Tori’s was chosen, he said. McClintic had met Tori’s mother.

McClintic and Rafferty weren’t soulmates, Derstine said. She herself described him as a guy that she was seeing. Why would she go along with this plan for someone she didn’t particularly care about, Derstine asked. Why, when on McClintic’s version of events Rafferty stops at Tim Hortons en route to the murder scene, would she not have jumped out of the car screaming for help, he said.

“So you’re in front of this bustling hive of humanity, knowing that this little lark that you got yourself into — as if — you know, all of a sudden this turned into this incredible nightmare,” Derstine said sarcastically. “What, she just sits there and waits for her tea?”

Later en route to the site where Tori was killed, the pair stopped at a Home Depot where Rafferty instructed McClintic to buy a hammer and garbage bags and she complied, McClintic testified. Yet another opportunity where she could have put the brakes on an impending murder if she was in fact just a hesitant accomplice, Derstine said.

“What on God’s green acre could she have been thinking to continue with this scheme if she was not the engine behind it?” he said to the jury.

Simply put, Derstine suggested, McClintic’s evidence is not to be trusted. She has lied in the past and she lied to the jury, Derstine said, with one exception.

“I still urge you to find that you could find beyond a reasonable doubt that she was the one who bashed in poor Tori Stafford’s head,” Derstine said.

What happened to Tori has not been disputed by Derstine. A pathologist testified that Tori was hit in the head with a hammer at least four times and had many rib fractures and a lacerated liver that could be consistent with kicking and stomping. Derstine urged the jury to look past the emotion of the case.

“This trial is set against the backdrop of an unspeakable tragedy,” he said. “It is all too easy to let the horror of that particular day overwhelm this trial and overwhelm your deliberations.”