Michael Rafferty has been sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole for 25 years, despite his continued claim that he did not commit crimes against Victoria (Tori) Stafford of Woodstock, Ont.
At the sentencing hearing being held in London, Ont., Tuesday, Rafferty was given the opportunity to speak and he told the court, "I firmly stand behind not guilty."
He admitted he played a role in Tori's disappearance, but said he's not guilty of murder, kidnapping, or sexual assault, even though a jury found him guilty on all of those charges on Friday. He offered to meet with Tori's mother, Tara McDonald, to fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle so she would know the whole story.
In sentencing the 31-year-old, Justice Thomas Heeney said Rafferty committed an act "of pure evil."
"Most tragically of all you have snuffed out the life of a .... little girl ... And for what? So you could fulfil your twisted need to have sex with a child. You sir are a monster," the judge said.
Rafferty also receives 10 years each for kidnapping and sexual assault causing bodily harm, to be served concurrently with the sentence for first-degree murder.
Heeney also prohibited from owning weapons, and said his name will be added to the national sex offender registry and he must provide a DNA sample. Rafferty will be up for parole on May 19, 2034.
A number of Tori's relatives spoke at the hearing about the loss they felt after the 2009 slaying.
Tori's mother, Tara McDonald, said she has been through a lifetime of pain in the past three years. She said her life, and the lives of her family, were destroyed the day Tori disappeared.
"But Victoria wouldn't want us to be miserable forever, so for her we will pick up the pieces and put together our lives as best as we can," she said. "No amount of time or tears will ever bring her back to me."
McDonald said her son, Daryn, who usually walked his younger sister Tori home from school, still feels guilty about not doing so on April 8, 2009. McDonald also said she has to deal with whispers from people who think she had something to do with her daughter's disappearance.
She said she will never get a chance to see Tori at her graduation, prom or wedding. It has all been replaced by anniversaries — the day she went missing, the day she was found.
McDonald was among the family members who spoke at the sentencing hearing of Rafferty, 31. Linda Winters, Tori's maternal grandmother and father, Rodney Stafford, also spoke about how they have been affected by the murder of the Grade 3 student, whose body was found in Mount Forest, 100 kilometres north of Woodstock.
Rodney Stafford told the hearing there are no words to express his feelings and that he often wants to explode with rage. Cheers could be heard in the courthouse as Stafford referred to the "piece of shit" who stole Tori.
Tears from killer
When a statement written by Tori's brother Daryn was read out, Rafferty appeared to get emotional and began to cry, occasionally wiping tears from his eyes.
Daryn wrote that he feels alone and has had to go to counselling. He said he has low self-esteem and anxiety. He cannot walk alone without constantly looking behind him.
He described the last time he saw Tori, on the day she disappeared, and said everything seemed normal.
"Now I am lost without her, trying to move on without my baby sister and best friend," he wrote. "No hugs, no see you later, no goodbyes, just a part of my heart ripped out … like the world is playing a sick trick on me but it's not. This is my reality."
Throughout the trial, which began March 5 and ended in a guilty verdict Friday evening, people have jockeyed to get a seat in the courtroom, and Tuesday morning was no different. People lined up early to try to get a seat inside the courtroom or in the overflow room.
About 30 people were lined up before 8 a.m. at the London, Ont., courthouse where Michael Rafferty's sentencing hearing was being held. (Cheryl Krawchuk/CBC)
Rafferty was found guilty on all three charges he faced following the first full day of deliberations: first-degree murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm and kidnapping.
A conviction of first-degree murder carries a penalty of life in prison without the possibility of parole for 25 years.