A Woodstock, Ont., woman who knew Tori Stafford said she dated accused killer Michael Rafferty at the time Tori disappeared and that he joked about tackling the “white-coated woman” suspected of abducting the eight-year-old girl.
Amanda Chambers, 33, was one of several women who met Rafferty on the dating website Plenty of Fish. Four of the women testified at his murder trial Friday morning.
Rafferty, 31, has pleaded not guilty to kidnapping, raping and murdering Tori on April 8, 2009.
Chambers said her daughter played with Tori and she knew the girl’s mother, Tara McDonald.
Chambers said she started an online relationship with Rafferty early in April 2009 and had sex with him after meeting him at a Tim Hortons.
The mother of two said Rafferty told her he was a contractor and dance instructor.
“One of the things that drew my heartstrings was that he told me he had a stepson … that had passed away just a few weeks prior to us talking,” Chambers testified. “Being a mother, that’s one of the worst things you can deal with, is losing a child.”
They had plenty of conversations about her children, a daughter 13 and son 10 at the time.
“I loved being a mom and he seemed very supportive of that.”
She learned of Tori’s disappearance the day after it happened and texted Rafferty the news.
“He seemed surprised. He seemed like everyone else that day … sympathetic,” Chambers testified.
Chambers searched for Tori that evening and Rafferty texted her to say he was searching too, around the tracks at his end of the city.
The next evening, an upset Chambers met a “very supportive” Rafferty at a coffee shop and talked again about Tori.
“We were talking about how she may have went missing, how this could happen,” she said.
Rafferty made some jokes to lighten the mood, saying he’d seen a woman in a white jacket and if that was her, “he would tackle her to the ground.”
The woman seen in surveillance video walking Tori away from her school was later revealed to be Rafferty’s then-girlfriend, Terri-Lynn McClintic. McClintic, 21, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in April 2010.
Chambers said on other dates, she and Rafferty went bowling and also met at a Crabby Joe’s, but he acted “weird” on both occasions.
Michelle Wagler, 30, was another woman who met Rafferty through Plenty of Fish.
After Tori’s disappearance, she said Rafferty changed his MSN sign-in posting to read, “Bring Tori Home.”
Wagler said her MSN posting read “Pray for Tori” and Rafferty sent her a text saying, “We are all praying for Tori.”
Rafferty told Ashley Reid, 25, a Fanshawe College student in April 2009, he was working with a young woman at a London detention centre.
He told her how good it would it feel if he knew that she got out of this and she was able to go on with her life and that he had some part of it, Reid testified.
McClintic was in custody at London’s Genest detention centre on an unrelated matter at the time.
Some of the women kept their relationship to texting, or ended things after a date or two. Rafferty didn’t take rejection well, pleading with some to explain why they didn’t want to see him again.
Rafferty refused to look at one woman, Stephanie Cooney, 29, of Kitchener, as she described an April 19 date that she said she “just wanted to be over.”
The court also heard testimony about Rafferty’s ties to the rural area north of Guelph where Stafford was murdered.
Rachel Diwell grew up in Erin, north of Guelph and was 17 in 2005 when she became Rafferty’s “inseparable” girlfriend for a number of months.
Diwell said she and Rafferty were unemployed at the time and they would often drive the backroads in Wellington County, Kitchener-Waterloo and the Cambridge area.
“He always seemed to know where he was going,” said Diwell.
Diwell said Rafferty appeared to be addicted to Percocets at the time, claiming to have a back problem, and would purchase the pain-killer from drug dealers.
The court also heard from John Cruickshank, who runs a landscaping firm based north of Guelph.
He said Rafferty worked for the business in 2003 and 2006 and worked with crews that landscaped landfill sites in Wellington County.
One of the sites is only a few kilometres from the farm lane were Stafford was murdered.
The trial continues on Tuesday.