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True Crime Commentary: The Michael Rafferty Case

The first step is to know what you do not know. The second step is to ask the right questions. I reserve the right to lean on my ignorance.


Before we do anything, I want to make very clear what my understanding is about the difference between shame and guilt.

1. Shame

Imagine that a particle de-molecularizer is poised up in outer space. The device targets YOU and fires, making a direct hit upon your person with an invisible, silent, and completely painless burst of energy. This burst of energy does no harm to you whatsoever.

However, the beam from the de-molecularizer does do one thing: It completely dissolves every stitch of clothing you are wearing from your body. Furthermore, this happens at the most inconvenient time: 5:30 in the afternoon, on one fine sunny day in June, after you have gotten off work; it is a Friday, the start of the weekend, and you are shopping in whatever supermarket you shop at regularly.

Here you are, naked in front of everybody in the supermarket during one of the busiest times of the week. You are mortified! You wrap your arms around yourself and squat down to obscure the view of your private parts, and so forth. You duck behind something. Somebody get me out of here! Somebody help me!

You are shamed because you have been made to feel an embarrassed vulnerability, through no fault of your own. Your protective covering has been cruelly stripped from you.

2. Guilt

In the case of shame, what we are really talking about is our face of respectability, which is the public persona of most people. We feel shame when that face of respectability has been taken from us, either through folly (we walk into a door or something) or through our own deliberate actions (we get caught in an extramarital affair we're having, or something like that).

In order to be able to feel guilt, however, one must have empathy about anything we do to intentionally or unintentionally hurt other people. Empathy means that we feel bad about the harm done to others. We can imagine how they feel by figuratively putting ourselves in their shoes.

We can know that an individual is coming from a place of empathy when she describes a heartbreaking or harrowing experience she has endured, and yet is able to summon the compassion for her fellow humans, by saying something like: "... and I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy!"

You say "Tom-A-toe" and I say "To-mah-toe"

Psychopath or Sociopath?

Personally, I just use the word psychopath. We all know that the core ingredient of the pathological personality is the lack of empathy, which prohibits the ability to ever feel "guilt," as we discussed in the previous section.

I know that the prescribed difference has to do with psychopathy being more rooted in genetic predisposition; and sociopathy being rooted in early, prolonged, and severe childhood emotional neglect.

I have also heard Dr. Todd Grande, on his YouTube channel refer to Factor 1 psychopathy and Factor 2 psychopathy (which, he says, is known as sociopathy).

He says that the Factor 1 psychopath is most dangerous because he is able to appear so normal, just like the mass of ordinary people; they hold responsible jobs, have apparently thriving, loving families, are well thought of by friends, colleagues, and oftentimes fellow churchgoers. These psychopaths are able to plan their rude violations of human decency. They think very carefully about the ideal victim, the when and where of the intended attack, the tools they will need, how they will get in and out of the premises, how they will dispose of the body --- so that they can get away with the crime and thus maintain their mask of public respectability.

These Factor 1 psychopaths usually have very little to no recorded criminal history (they have never been arrested prior to their serial killing being exposed).

Factor 2 types are more crude and impulsive. Their general appearance tends to automatically inspire grave suspicion. They will more likely than not have substantial recorded records of felonious offense. These are the type that Dr. Grande tells us are the ones technically known as sociopaths, in his field.

Again, for the reason I have already stated, I simply use the word psychopath, because, again, the important thing for me, is the pathological lack of empathy evident in the actions of Michael Rafferty.

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According to Dr. Grande, there is a sort of gradation scale, if you will, used to fine-tune precise categorization of the psychopath.

The acronym OCEAN is used.

O. openness to new experiences

C. conscientiousness

E. extraversion

A. agreeability

N. neuroticism

We need not go through all five terms here. Let's just focus of neuroticism.

You may be thinking to yourself something like: "Neuroticism? How can psychopaths be 'neurotic'? They're psychopaths! They don't care about anybody or anything. They don't care about the wrongs or physical injury they inflict on others."

Yes, that is true. But some of them, especially the Factor 1 psychopaths, care very much about looking to the public as if they care.

Let's get one thing sorted out right now.

Not all psychopaths are like Dr. Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs and so forth. That is to say, there are some psychopaths who are highly neurotic. By neurotic I mean that they can be grossed out by blood and guts as easily as many normal people.

The hallmark of the psychopath is that he lacks empathy. However, it is quite possible for the psychopath to be grossed out by blood and guts, even while he would not hesitate to spill the blood and guts of his intended victim. He can become, subsequently, rather grossed out by the aesthetic, which is not to say: morally grossed out.

If you watch the interrogation video of Michael Rafferty, you will see what I think Dr. Grande would call a psychopath of "mid-to-high range neuroticism."

As a matter of fact, I think novelist Dean Koontz has painted a masterful portrait of the highly neurotic, murderous psychopath in the character of Junior Cain in From the Corner of His Eye (2000).

So, Michael Rafferty can be aesthetically grossed out by what he did to the eight-year-old girl Tori Stafford, without necessarily being morally grossed out by the fact that he raped and murdered that child. In the former case, shame, as I have defined it above, comes into play; in the latter case, guilt and remorse would come into play.

Briefly, The Michael Rafferty Case

Let's begin then.

I will not recount the infamous Michael Rafferty and Terri-Lynne McClintic case in detail. It is very well known; and the details are very easily accessed with the magic of Google.

But the long and short of it is this: It is a Canadian case. Terri-Lynne lured eight-year-old Tori Stafford into Rafferty's car, with the promise of showing the girl a puppy. Rafferty and McClintic abducted the girl, drove her to a remote location, where Rafferty, himself, raped and murdered Tori Stafford.

I am looking, online, at an article from a periodical called The Hamilton Spectator, published (online, at least) on May 12, 2012 (and purported to have been "updated" on May 23, 2020).

To quote from the article:

"In May 2009, no one knew Michael Rafferty. He was the 28-year-old from Woodstock charged with Tori Stafford's abduction, rape and murder. He had no criminal record, not even a parking ticket to his name. He was the guy with boyish good looks and easy charm who went from anonymity to instant notoriety."

After three years and ten trial weeks later we learn, according to the article that:

"... he was a sexual deviant, trawled online for child pornography, had a penchant for sexual choking, liked torture sex.

"We know he was addicted to prescription pills OxyContin, that he was a womanizer, even pimped out a girlfriend, lived off her earnings."

All of this came out at trial.

"What did not come out was the trigger to abduct, rape and kill Tori. Was it because of a drug-addled brain?

What was the trigger for Michael Rafferty to abduct, rape, and kill eight-year-old Tori Stafford?

Let's look at this question and...

  • Try to determine EXACTLY what is being asked;
  • determine if it is the right question to be asking;
  • and if not, try pose a better question as an alternative

First of all, this is an interesting question to pose in a magazine article; but it seems to be a very appropriate question for investigators to ask a suspect in a police interrogation.

The police interrogation side of things shall not detain us here.

To use the word "trigger" suggests a loaded gun. If one pulls a "trigger" of a loaded gun, chances are someone could get hurt, if not killed. The word "trigger" would appear to acknowledge the fact that Rafferty was a loaded gun.

Does this mean that he, in some way, had "had the safety on" for the first twenty-eight years of his life?

If so, we need to ask: What exactly was the nature of the safety that had been holding Michael Rafferty back from homicidal pedophilia until he reached the age of twenty-eight?

But we all know that a gun without any bullets in it cannot hurt anybody --- whether the safety is on or off.

What were the bullets in the loaded gun that was Michael Rafferty?

The answer is: his in-born psychological pathology of pedophilia.

We don't know yet, at this point, if his pathology included a homicidal compulsion, even though Rafferty did kill Tori Stafford after he was done with his sexual attack.

Now the question becomes:

How could the loading of such a "gun" that was Michael Rafferty, have been prevented? That is to say: How could the "bullets" have been made unavailable?

In other words: What is the appropriate approach to dealing with an in-born psychological pathology?

Well, isn't it: a lengthy period of intensive psychotherapy, with medication as needed?

This does not appear to be the approach that Rafferty took. Whether consciously or unconsciously, he took an approach that I would call suppression. By that I mean that he simply buried his hunger for sexual contact with children under a lot of other stuff.

The barriers would be bound to break sometime.


Let's do an exercise in cause and effect.

John Morton is mean-spirited and verbally abusive when he drinks.


Is the answer to get John Morton to stop drinking, thus curing him of his behavior problems?

But what if John Morton's behavior problems have nothing to do with his drinking? What if John Morton drinks for the precise reason of disguising his behavior problems?

What if he drinks to have his mean-spirited verbally abusive behavior associated with his drunken state as opposed to his normal sober state?

The alcohol, here, actually helps John Morton to preserve the public image of himself as a nice guy "with a problem." Besides, nobody's perfect; and let he who is without sin cast the first stone. Etcetera, etcetera, so on and so forth.

Now, to judge from what is presented to us from The Hamilton Spectator article, Rafferty led a wild party life.

One might have looked at his behavior, from the outside, and asked the following question:

If Michael Rafferty tones down his wild partying life, will this make him a better person?

Personally, I am inclined to say: NO!

From our vantage point, I would say that if Rafferty had "toned down" his wild partying lifestyle, at, say, the age of 25, the demon which is his in-born psychological pathology of pedophilia would have emerged that much sooner.

For example, according to the Hamilton Spectator article, Rafferty spent a good bit of time at Good Time Charlie's, a popular bar.

A neighbor of one of the women Rafferty dated said this:

'We knew when he was coming because you could hear the bass pumping from his car stereo.'

Question: Did Rafferty keep the music in his car so loud because he liked it; or was there something else he was trying to drown out?

Does Michael Rafferty feel guilt (as opposed to shame) and remorse?

My guess would be: Yes. If, as I think, Michael Rafferty knew about his in-born psychological pathology and dealt with it the best way he knew how: trying to bury those feelings under a mountain of hard partying, loud music, alcohol (and perhaps other substances), and a frenetic dating schedule with women (perhaps trying to tell himself something like: "How could I be into little girls, I am the ultimate ladies man! I'm The Mack! I'm a straight PIMP!") --- then his reason for having done so was the knowledge that pedophilia is bad, manifesting is an ardent, if misguided, attempt to resist manifesting this behavior.

Having ultimately failed to hold back the demon indefinitely, my guess would be that he feels guilt and remorse, as well as shame.

I suppose the only thing I would have us take away is this: Whenever you see a person with what you might describe as an "over-the-top" personality, you might just hold a little space to quietly wonder to yourself ("I wonder what kind of demon he's trying to keep locked up!")

Thank you for reading!

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