Man charged in Tori Stafford's murder looking for lawyer to appeal conviction

TORONTO – The man convicted in the kidnapping and murder of eight-year-old Victoria “Tori” Stafford continued his search for a taxpayer-funded lawyer Monday in his attempt to appeal his conviction, a move that incensed the little girl’s father.

Wearing a blue prison jumpsuit, Michael Rafferty appeared via video at the Court of Appeal for Ontario in Toronto where his matter was put over until Aug. 12.

Rafferty is appealing on grounds that the judge in his trial failed to properly instruct the jury and that the jury didn’t properly understand the required evidence to convict him of first-degree murder.

The court agreed to grant a private lawyer who has been in touch with Rafferty extra time to compile information that will determine whether the convicted killer is eligible for a court-appointed lawyer or legal aid, which he had previously been denied.

Both scenarios would result in taxpayers footing the bill for Rafferty’s appeal.

That angered Tori’s father, who was present at the hearing.

“I want everybody to know that my family hasn’t given up on Victoria,” Rodney Stafford said outside the courthouse.

“We know she’s gone and everybody cares deeply. We can’t just let this go. It’s not like somebody took our dog or anything — somebody took my flesh and blood, and I want to make sure justice is served.”

Stafford, who was wearing a shirt with the words “justice for Tori” written on the front, said he was disgusted Rafferty was even back before the court.

“I was shaking because all I wanted to do was go through the screen. This guy took my daughter,” he said of his reaction to Rafferty’s video appearance.

“It’s kind of upsetting that this is all going to be dragged out longer…It just sends the whole thing back into the emotional roller-coaster.”

Stafford said his family was trying to move forward with their lives four years after Tori’s death but added that he was glad the proceedings would keep the issue of children’s safety in the public eye.

“We keep Victoria very close to our hearts,” he said.

Rafferty was convicted in May 2012 of first-degree murder, kidnapping and sexual assault causing bodily harm in the Woodstock, Ont., girl’s death on April 8, 2009.

Rafferty’s former girlfriend and accomplice in the killing, Terri-Lynne McClintic, is also serving a life sentence after pleading guilty to first-degree murder.

Evidence presented at Rafferty’s trial showed McClintic lured the Grade 3 student to his car with the promise of showing her a dog.

The pair drove about 130 kilometres north to a secluded field, where the girl was raped and brutally beaten to death.

She died from at least four blows to the head from a hammer and 16 of her ribs were broken or fractured. Her body was buried under garbage bags and a pile of rocks.

Rafferty told the court Monday he was being moved to a different province in the coming weeks. He is currently being held at a penitentiary in Kingston, Ont., which is slated to be shut down.