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Defence lawyer suggests McClintic targeted Tori Stafford

Terri-Lynne McClintic is transported from court for proceedings in the Michael Rafferty murder trial in London, Ontario, Wednesday, March, 21, 2012.


A lawyer for the man charged with murdering eight-year-old Victoria (Tori) Stafford took square aim at the prosecution's star witness Thursday, accusing her of being the driving force in the little girl's ghastly death three years ago and insinuating that Tori was deliberately targeted.

"I am going to suggest you were the engine that drove the events that day, " Dirk Derstine told Terri-Lynne McClintic, his voice often dripping with sarcasm as he grilled her through a long afternoon of tough questions.

Ms. McClintic maintains she chose Tori at random, but Mr. Derstine suggested she deliberately picked her.

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Both Tori and Ms. McClintic's mother owned Shih Tzu dogs, the trial has been told, and there had been talk of breeding them. Another link was a shared interest in the painkiller OxyContin, which both Ms. McClintic and Tori's mother regularly abused.

"Why did that child follow you so obediently?" Mr. Derstine asked, in reference to the apparent ease with which Ms. McClintic was able to intercept Tori outside her Woodstock school and persuade the child to accompany her to the car where her alleged accomplice, Michael Rafferty, was waiting.

"Three hundred and twenty six students at Oliver Stephens Public School that day," Mr. Derstine said. "And she was the one you picked?"

While Ms. McClintic insists she was the one who beat Tori to death with a hammer, she also maintains it was Mr. Rafferty who wanted to kidnap a child, and manipulated her into taking part.

"I'm not the only guilty party," she said from the witness stand, across the big courtroom from where her onetime boyfriend sat in the glass-walled prisoner's box.

Mr. Rafferty, 31, has pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm and abduction in Tori's death.

"When I woke up April 8th, I never had murder on my mind," Ms. McClintic testified. "I never planned to kidnap a little girl. … when I walked her down the street that day, I did not think I was walking her to her death."

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As to why it was only in January of this year that she altered her story and said that it was she – not Mr. Rafferty – who beat Tori to death, she told the court that it has taken that long for her to accept what she did.

"It did take me time to come to terms with that," she told Mr. Derstine. "But now I have, and I'm sitting here today and I'm telling the truth."

The defence lawyer spent much of the day trying to prove Ms. McClintic was not only capable of violence but of also planning crimes and covering them up.

In videoed statements to police – before she confessed to Tori's murder – Ms. McClintic has an upbeat demeanour as she denies any involvement in the death, at one point joking around with an officer about her taste for profane hip-hop.

During one interview, she implicated Tori's mother, Tara McDonald, and Ms. McDonald's boyfriend, James Gorris, both of whom she knew casually via the drug circuit. Mr. Derstine suggested Ms. McClintic had fed police the story in an attempt to take the heat off herself and onto the family.

He said Ms. McClintic was "very relaxed and confident" during the interrogations and "a pretty good liar."

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She rejected all these assertions.

He also detailed her criminal record, which included convictions for stabbing a man in a parking lot during a failed robbery and then getting into a fistfight with police officers.

Ms. McClintic admitted to beating her adoptive mother, Carol McClintic, after the older woman got her fired from her job. Ms. McClintic hit her mother so hard in the face that it left her with 30-per-cent vision in one eye.

Court also saw poems written by Ms. McClintic while in custody on previous charges, and Mr. Derstine zeroed in on passages that evoked details of Tori's death. One described cleaning up a murder scene; another talked about destroying evidence; a third described kicking someone and "shattering" their ribs and using a hammer on them.

Ms. McClintic said all her writings were merely fantasies.

Tori vanished on April 8, 2009, from outside her school in Woodstock, Ont. The girl's remains were discovered three months later, outside the small town of Mount Forest, 130 kilometres away, wrapped in green garbage bags and concealed beneath heavy rocks. Her head had been smashed in and her ribs broken.

Mr. Derstine's cross-examination continues Friday.

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About the Authors
Washington correspondent

Adrian Morrow covers U.S. politics from Washington, D.C. Previously he was The Globe's Ontario politics reporter. He's covered news, crime and sports for The Globe since 2010. He won the National Newspaper Award for politics reporting in 2016. More

At The Globe and Mail since 1982, in assorted manifestations, chiefly crime reporter, foreign correspondent and member of the Editorial Board, Tim is now retired. More

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