January 17, 2012
Tori Stafford's family fumes over accused killer's smile
By Randy Richmond, QMI Agency
LONDON, ONT. - Victoria Stafford's father is fuming after the man accused of kidnapping, sexually assaulting and murdering his eight-year-old girl flashed a smile to his lawyers before a confidential hearing on Monday.
"I was pissed, to be quite honest," Rodney Stafford, Victoria's father, said. "My little girl's gone. You can't stand there accused of first-degree murder and have a good time in the courtroom."
Michael Thomas Rafferty stands accused first-degree murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm and kidnapping in the death of Victoria (Tori).
Rafferty's lawyer told reporters the accused man is hardly having a good time as the lengthy legal proceedings wind their way toward a trial this spring.
"Imagine yourself waiting for two years to decide the entire fate of the entire rest of your life," Dirk Derstine said.
Derstine asked the public to withhold judgement on his client until the trial is over.
"There are other things, which the public has no knowledge of and that will come forward and which will have real significance in Mr. Rafferty's case."
More than two years after he was charged, Rafferty's trial has reached the beginning of four weeks of pre-trial motions designed to settle procedural issues. These hearings are protected by a publication ban.
Several of Tori's family members attended the first day of hearings.
Eight-year-old Tori was abducted while walking home from school April 8, 2009. Her disappearance attracted media attention across North America.
The hopes of finding Tori alive ended in May 2009 with the arrest of two people, Rafferty and his girlfriend at the time, Terri-Lynne McClintic.
McClintic pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison in April 2010, although a publication ban kept that information secret until December 2010.
In June 2010, the Attorney General of Ontario proceeded with a direct indictment for Rafferty, bypassing a preliminary hearing, and sending him to trial on three counts.
Jury selection is set to begin Feb. 27, with a trial before Superior Court Justice Thomas Heeney expected to begin in March.
Clean-shaven, with close-cropped hair and wearing a charcoal suit, white shirt, blue-grey tie and glasses, Rafferty sat still through the pre-trial hearing Monday.
Rodney Stafford, his mother Doreen, brother Rob and girlfriend Petrina Fraser stared at Rafferty through much of the hearing.
"I am preparing for the worst," Stafford told reporters outside court. "I know there is going to be some bad stuff come out during the trial but we've got to keep moving forward. We can't change what happened."
Stafford said he didn't mind the long wait for justice, as long as that meant justice would be served.
"As long as it gets done properly, that's all I'm concerned about, and everybody gets what they deserve."
The family still wrestles every day with what happened to Tori, he said.
"It's hard to get through because on a daily basis you are seeing pictures of Victoria; you are talking about her. On a daily basis we're still going through misery.
Stafford said he hoped to attend court each day.
"I want to be here to fight for my daughter."
The pre-trial hearings continue Tuesday.