WARNING: Graphic details from this court case may disturb some readers.
Michael Rafferty maintained his innocence Tuesday in the brutal abduction, rape and killing of Victoria (Tori) Stafford as the judge presiding over the case labelled him a “monster.”
Rafferty apologized to the eight-year-old girl’s family in court after hearing the devastating effects of her death three years ago, but staunchly denied carrying out the crimes he was convicted of Friday.
“I am guilty of many crimes and there are a lot of things I am very, very ashamed of, but these three counts I still stand firmly behind not guilty,” he said.
At the same time, he admitted to being “very definitely part of why Victoria’s not here today,” and offered to privately reveal “all the pieces of the puzzle” to Tori’s mother, Tara McDonald.
It was the first time Rafferty has openly spoken in his own defence since pleading not guilty. The 31-year-old did not take the stand during the nine-week trial, leaving only his former girlfriend and accomplice Terri-Lynne McClintic’s account of what happened the day Tori was killed.
Rafferty was formally sentenced Tuesday 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.
In delivering the sentence, Superior Court Judge Thomas Heeney condemned Rafferty for snuffing out the life of a beautiful and innocent girl in order to gratify his “twisted and deviant desire to have sex with a child.”
“Only a monster could commit such an act of pure evil,” Heeney said angrily. “You, sir, are a monster.”
Heeney had delayed sentencing Rafferty to give members of Tori’s family a chance to give victim impact statements.
Earlier, the convicted killer sat in the prisoner’s box and cried as he heard the words of Tori’s big brother Daryn describing how his heart has been “ripped out.”
Just 10 years old when Tori went missing, Daryn said it feels like the whole world is playing a sick trick on him — but it’s not.
The courtroom was packed with family members and reporters, and even nine members of the jury returned to see Rafferty be sent to prison for life.
Crown attorney Stephanie Venne read Daryn’s statement for him in court, and Rafferty wept as he heard Daryn’s words about his fractured family and how he is lost without his baby sister.
One of the questions on the form on which victims use for their statements asks “was anything taken from you?”
“It’s obviously asking about property, but something was taken from me,” Daryn wrote.
“My baby sister was taken from me and that’s not something I can go buy in a store and replace.”
Daryn said there are no words to describe the impact of his sister’s loss on him, but his statement described the empty spot in his life without Tori, his best friend.
“No hugs, no see you later, no goodbyes, just a part of my heart ripped out,” he wrote.
“Not one person can say they feel the same way 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 you’s, just an empty spot in my heart.”
Tori vanished April 8, 2009, and her family spent six agonizing weeks wondering what could have happened to their bubbly little girl, until Rafferty and McClintic were charged and police announced they believed Tori was dead.
It would be another two months before her remains were found and she could finally be brought home.
Rafferty will join McClintic, his ex-lover and partner in the gruesome crime, in being sentenced to life in prison. She pleaded guilty two years ago to first-degree murder, admitting she lured Tori away with the promise of seeing a dog and delivered the child to Rafferty for repeated sexual assaults.
The jurors went to the judge with several questions about the sexual assault charge during their 10 hours of deliberations. It was alleged that Rafferty’s sexual gratification was the motive behind the murder, but the jury didn’t know there was evidence that he sought out hours of child pornography videos and made dozens of searches for images of violent child rape.
No one will ever know whether the jury believed if Rafferty or McClintic wielded the hammer that killed the girl, whether they thought the abduction was random or targeted, or whether the sequence of events was planned all along — but the end result was the same for little Tori.
Whether Tori knew McClintic or she was lured away with talk of a dog, the eight-year-old with butterfly earrings and a skip in her step was still unwittingly led to her death on a sunny April day after school.