Rafferty jurors visit site where Staffords body was found

For the second time in three years, the community of Mount Forest was thrust into the national media spotlight in connection with the murder of Tori Stafford.

On July 19, 2009, about three months after the 8-year-old went missing from Woodstock, her body was discovered on a farm property southeast of the town.

And on Monday the 12 jurors in the murder trial of Michael Rafferty travelled by bus to the isolated site near the intersection of Concession 6 and Sideroad 2.

Terri-Lynne McClintic, who is already serving a life sentence for Tori’s murder, testified that after luring Tori from her Woodstock school on April 8, 2009, she and Rafferty, then her boyfriend, stopped in Guelph to purchase garbage bags and a hammer, before driving Tori to the Wellington North farm property.

Rafferty, who has pleaded not guilty to first degree murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm and abduction in connection with Tori’s disappearance and death, was also taken to the scene on April 2, though he  remained in a parked police vehicle.

Members of Tori’s family also visited the site to view what the jurors would be seeing, as did lawyers from both sides in the case and Ontario Superior Court Justice Thomas Heeney, who instructed the jurors that what they saw at the site could not be considered evidence.

He explained the purpose of the visit, which lasted about 25 minutes, was simply to help jurors gain a better understanding of evidence already presented in court.

Jurors were instructed not to  speak to one another during the tour of the site, which included stops at several important landmarks, each  marked with yellow placards lettered A to H.

Those included the area where McClintic testified she stood as Rafferty sexually assaulted Tori and also the pine tree at the end of a rock pile where police found Tori’s body covered in garbage bags.

Dozens of journalists, watched over by a number of OPP officers, walked up the property’s long laneway to visit the site after the jury’s departure.

The site would have appeared far different at the time of Tori’s murder – the Crown alleges that she was killed the same day as the abduction – including less foliage and light snow covering the ground.

However, it was clear the site would be very secluded, regardless of the time of year. The clearing near the rock pile is surrounded by several evergreen trees and large farm fields envelop the clearing.

Silos are visible from several vantage points at the site, but the closest house, across the road on Concession 6, is well out of view and earshot.

There was a sombre mood as journalists photographed and conducted broadcasts from the area where McClintic said Rafferty raped Tori before she struck the girl multiple times with a hammer. Tori’s body was then put in garbage bags and carried to the nearby rock pile, McClintic testified.

That story contradicted what she originally told police; that Rafferty killed the girl while she helplessly watched.

The Rafferty trial resumed on Tuesday with evidence from a pathologist focusing on the autopsy results.