Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Impossible from Autopsy to Tell If Tori Stafford Was Raped, Court Hears: Impossible to Tell If Tori Raped, Court Hears

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Impossible from Autopsy to Tell If Tori Stafford Was Raped, Court Hears: Impossible to Tell If Tori Raped, Court Hears

Article excerpt

LONDON, Ont. - By the time Victoria Stafford's remains were found -- clad only in butterfly earrings and her Hannah Montana T-shirt with the words "a girl can dream" -- they were so badly decomposed that it was impossible to tell if she was sexually assaulted, court heard Tuesday.

WARNING: Graphic details from this court case may disturb some readers.

What is clear is that the eight-year-old girl died from at least four hammer blows to her head, and 16 of her ribs were broken or fractured, Ontario's chief forensic pathologist testified.

The Crown alleges Michael Rafferty, 31, raped Tori before killing her, but Dr. Michael Pollanen said that cannot be determined through the pathology.

Tori's remains were so decomposed by the time of the autopsy on July 20, 2009 -- one day after a police officer acting on a hunch found them -- much of the physical structures in that region of the body had deteriorated completely, he said.

Her body, which lay in the fetal position, was wrapped in garbage bags and placed beneath an evergreen tree, court heard. Large rocks from a nearby pile were put on top, forming a "sort of clandestine grave," Pollanen said.

By the time she was found 103 days after she went missing, Tori's remains were unrecognizable, and had to be identified through dental records.

A broken piece of a hair clip and the earrings court has heard Tori borrowed from her mom were in the garbage bags with her.

The Grade 3 student from Woodstock, Ont., was found in an isolated nook of a farmer's field far from home and out of earshot from the nearest house months after she went missing on April 8, 2009.

Rafferty has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm, and kidnapping.

Tori's mother Tara McDonald wept silently while autopsy photographs were shown and Tori's father Rodney Stafford left the courtroom. …

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