Solid police work netted Tori's killers
Frame grab of police video shows Michael Rafferty was being questioned by the OPP Staff Sgt. Jim Smyth, right, at Woodstock Police Headquarters on May 20, 2009.
“It’s not just one person but a whole team.” — OPP Staff-Sgt. Jim Smyth
One saying heard often in justice circles is if you are in a police interview room and Staff-Sgt. Jim Smyth walks in, don’t make any appointments for the next 25 years.
And certainly don’t even bother trying to talk your way out of there.
Ask Michael Briere, Barry Manion or Russell Williams about that.
They, in essence, went from that interrogation room to serving life sentences. Briere for the gruesome sexual assault and Junction-area murder of 10-year-old Holly Jones.
Manion for the almost 40-year-old cold case of the sex slaying of 12-year-old Katherine May Wilson in Kirkland Lake.
And the killer-colonel Williams for the vicious stalking, rapes and murders of Jessica Lloyd and Marie-France Comeau, as well as several other sexual assault victims.
Their confessions came as a result of the skill of questioning by the master Smyth. Ask killer Terri-Lynne McClintic, who cried through two boxes of Kleenex as she spilled the beans on the disturbing tale of how eight-year-old Tori Stafford was abducted, sexually assaulted and brutally murdered.
It goes beyond the horror of what it must be like to be in a room with such scum. The information garnered is so vital.
For example, from the McClintic interrogation, came clues of just where Stafford’s body had been dumped.
On his off hours, Smyth used hunches to find the remains.
It’s the stuff of movies. But Smyth, 43, cringes at the references of “super cop” or him being a real-life CSI TV cop.
“It’s my job and a lot of other people did a lot of work to get that person into the room,” he said.
Humble and shy. Smyth, a 23-year veteran OPP behavioral sciences detective who started his career with York Regional Police, feels it’s inappropriate for cops to take bows when there are dead victims in the story.
He’s right. This was not TV. It was sick-to-your-stomach real.
Still, everybody from OPP Commissioner Chris Lewis to former commissioner and current Associate Minister of Defence Julian Fantino will attest it’s difficult to get one past Jim Smyth.
But cocky, defiant, crafty Michael Rafferty sure tried.
“He’s a master manipulator,” said Smyth Monday. “Or he thinks he is.”
It didn’t work on Smith or colleague OPP Staff Sgt. Christopher Loam who were in engaged in a classic good cop/bad cop move.
Loam got Rafferty a blanket and a snack while Smyth blusters in carrying a picture of murdered Stafford and flings it in Rafferty’s face to let him know he’s in for a battle.
“We’re done,” the murderer tells Smyth.
“Is that what you said to Tori before you killed her?” responded a quick witted Smyth “We’re done?’”
“Funny man,” responds Rafferty.
“Funny man,” retorts Smyth. “That’s what you think this is.”
“I think you’re a funny man,” states Rafferty.
“I think you’re a cold-blooded killer,” Smyth replies, later saying “eight years old, buddy. . . . That’s pure evil, bud.”
When cross-examined during the trial by Rafferty’s lawyer Dirk Derstine, Smyth said: “I wanted to make sure he knew we weren’t falling for his act. I wanted to get under his skin a little bit.”
It was such a contrast to the more gentle approach Smyth used to coax a confession out of the former CFB Trenton base commander Williams.
“The person you are talking with dictates the approach,” Smyth told me, admitting “at the end of the day its not nice to deal with evil people.”
Why would anybody want to keep doing such a job?
“The result we saw on Friday is one reason,” Smyth explained. “Getting justice for communities” is another.
Certainly when people like Briere, Manion, Williams, McClintic and Rafferty are either dead of behind bars for life, Ontario is a safer place thanks to the super cops who do perhaps the most difficult job there is. There’s nothing wrong with patting them on the back. They deserve it.
When the verdict was read Friday, Smyth was on his way home from a new case in Ottawa when he received a text of the first-degree-murder conviction.
“Relief,” he said was the word that came over him.
He suspects it will he feel the same Tuesday when they take Rafferty away to serve the rest of his life behind bars.