LONDON, Ont. – The largest search in Ontario Provincial Police history took officers on a journey one and half times the circumference of the moon, but fell 6.8 km short of finding the body of eight-year-old Tori Stafford, a jury heard Wednesday.
"To this date it is the largest search in OPP history and probably in our nation," Sgt. Jamie Stirling told jurors in the first-degree murder trial of Michael Rafferty.
With the help of several municipal forces, about 100 officers searched for three months on foot and by car, boat, ATV, helicopter and at a landfill site with backhoes and rakes.
Searchers covered 18,144 km on land — the moon’s circumference of 10,864 km — scoured 11 different waterways, and checked out 70 rock piles from Guelph to Fergus, Ont., that matched the description of one where Tori’s body was hidden.
"Literally, we went one and a half times around the moon," Stirling said.
The first searches focused on clues to the girl’s April 8, 2009, disappearance, then turned to a search for her body after the arrests of two people in May.
The early searches yielded no evidence and by July 17, the search for her body had extended north from Guelph to three concession roads south of a field near Mount Forest.
Two days later, a lone officer checking out the area found the body by a rock pile in that field.
However, investigators had far greater success in searching the small and cluttered residence of co-accused Terri-Lynne McClintic— who pleaded guilty to the child’s murder in 2010 — finding several pieces of evidence after her arrest, jurors heard.
Among the evidence: A crumpled missing person’s flyer for Tori, shoes McClintic said Rafferty gave her to wear once she threw her pair out after the killing and a bottle of hair dye McClintic said Rafferty told her to use to change her appearance.
Rafferty has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm and kidnapping in the April 8, 2009, disappearance of Tori.
McClintic, 21, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in 2010 and testified against her former boyfriend. McClintic said she lured the eight-year-old girl to Rafferty’s car. He drove them to the Mount Forest area and raped Tori, before the girl was killed with a hammer, McClintic said.
On Tuesday, jurors heard expert evidence from Ontario’s chief forensic pathologist, Dr. Michael Pollanen, about how Tori died.
Pollanen concluded the girl died from at least four hammer blows to her head, and would have died as well from severe blunt force trauma to her torso, which included 16 fractured ribs and lacerations on her liver.
He took the stand early Wednesday to face questions from Rafferty’s lawyer, Dirk Derstine.
"It was not necessary to apply this much force to that eight-year-old girl to kill her?" Derstine suggested.
"I think that’s true," Pollanen replied.
"It was a savage and ongoing attack on this little girl?" Derstine asked later.
"I think that is a reasonable characterization," Pollanen said.
Under Derstine’s questions, Pollanen agreed there was no way of determining who inflicted the wounds.
Derstine has posed an alternative theory of what happened April 8, 2009, suggesting McClintic lured Tori on her own and pretended the girl was taken as payback for a drug debt. She offered Tori as a sexual gift to Rafferty, who refused, and then she savagely killed the girl.
In an intense cross-examination of McClintic on March 23, Derstine played segments of six lurid and violent "death rap" songs and asked her if she was listening to those songs before she snatched Tori off the street.
Crown Attorney Michael Carnegie countered that line of questioning, noting that none of the six songs Derstine questioned McClintic about were on the iPod police found while searching her home.