LONDON, Ont. - Family members of Victoria Stafford will try to put into words Tuesday the void that the eight-year-old's brutal murder has left in their lives before her killer is formally sent away to spend the rest of his life behind bars.
WARNING: Graphic details from this court case may disturb some readers.
Michael Rafferty, 31, was convicted Friday of first-degree murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm and kidnapping after the jury deciding his case deliberated for 10 hours.
First-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence with no chance to apply for parole for 25 years. Superior Court Judge Thomas Heeney delayed Rafferty's official sentencing until Tuesday to give members of Tori's family a chance to give victim impact statements.
Her mother, father, aunts and uncles and other relatives spent time last week preparing statements to read in court in front of Rafferty so they can describe the pain he has caused.
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 Terri-Lynne 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 deliberations. It was alleged that Rafferty's sexual gratification was the motive behind the whole murder, but the jury didn't know there was evidence he sought out hours of child pornography videos and made dozens of searches for images of violent child rape.
In the end they were satisfied all the same that even though the months of decomposition destroyed the hope of finding any scientific evidence of rape, the child who was stripped naked from the waist down before most of her ribs were fractured and her skull was shattered with blows from a hammer was first sexually assaulted.
No one will ever know whether the jury believed if Rafferty or McClintic wielded the hammer, 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.