A blood-covered garbage bag, with rips where a claw hammer penetrated the green plastic and slammed into a little girl’s skull.
Her small head, a broken puzzle pieced back together, save for the four gaping holes left by the $18 weapon.
And her Hannah Montana shirt, the only clothing not stripped off Tori Stafford before she was buried half naked, her ribs broken, her head smashed, her liver lacerated, beneath that pyre of heavy rocks.
These were the photos the jury was forced to see one more time. One more horrific glimpse of the evil they have been asked to judge. An emotionally-charged trump card the prosecution wields in an attempt to undo any doubt created by the defence’s expert performance of the previous day.
In this heartless murder of a child, they say, Michael Rafferty was no innocent dupe; he was not some blind, horrified chauffeur.
No, prosecutors contend, Rafferty was the very willing partner in crime to convicted killer Terri-Lynne McClintic: She was Bonnie to his Clyde, and together the twisted team planned and executed the April 8, 2009 kidnapping, rape and murder of an innocent eight-year-old girl.
“Together they did this to Tori Stafford; together they are guilty,” argued Kevin Gowdey as he launched the Crown’s closing submission in Rafferty’s first-degree murder trial.
Rafferty, 31, has pleaded not guilty and his lawyer Dirk Derstine spent the previous day casting McClintic, already serving a life sentence for the murder, as the lone homicidal “engine” behind Tori’s slaying. He refloated his vague theory that she snatched the little girl to exact a ransom for a drug debt and that Rafferty had no idea what was going on when his former girlfriend asked him to wait in the car while she picked Tori up from Oliver Stephens Public School.
But rather than standing by in horror later as McClintic struck the child repeatedly with a hammer, motivated only by her own demons, Gowdey told jurors Rafferty was actually the mastermind behind the ugly tableau. That this was never about an unsubstantiated drug debt, this was about a man who wanted to rape a child.
“Michael Rafferty was leading the events of April 8 from start to finish,” the prosecutor insisted. “Terri-Lynne McClintic did not do this by herself. She was the violent pawn that Michael Rafferty used to make this happen for himself.”
In a slow, methodical, almost numbing process, Gowdey shot down Derstine’s version of events: If Rafferty didn’t realize this was a kidnapping, why did security cameras show him driving by the school twice that day as if scouting out the crime? If he believed this was an innocent pick-up of a family friend, why did he park far down the street in a concealed location as he waited for McClintic to return with the girl?
And if McClintic had really targeted Tori — and not some random girl as instructed by Rafferty — how did she manage to pick the very first day the child was being allowed to walk home by herself?
No, there was something much more sinister going on, the prosecutor said.
“Mr. Rafferty was sitting there in that parking lot when Terri-Lynne McClintic brought him his gift. He was waiting for his gift and he found a partner who was willing to deliver it.”
But any evidence of a sexual assault was destroyed by the three long months Tori’s remains lay buried at the end of an isolated laneway near Mount Forest. All the jurors have now is the word of McClintic, a woman with a long history of violence and a propensity to lie.
Still, Gowdey urged them to use their “common sense”: Why else had Rafferty driven Tori to a secluded farmer’s field 130 kilometres from her Woodstock home, an area he knew well and “where no one will hear her screams?” Why else did he get rid of the back seat of his car, the place McClintic says Tori was raped again and again? And why else was the little girl found half-naked?
“What reason would anyone have to remove her clothing, especially her skirt and her leotards and her underwear unless there had been a sexual assault?” the prosecutor asked.
And covering it up, Gowdey said, was the only motive for her murder.
The Crown’s closing arguments continue Wednesday.