WOODSTOCK, Ont.–It wasn’t the first time Melanie Munger had been put ill at ease by Michael Rafferty. But the Facebook message she received in October 2007 from the self-proclaimed “hopeless romantic” set off alarm bells.
“He said he worked in a meat packing plant in Guelph and worked under a knife all day,” Munger, 30, said yesterday. “I thought there was something strange about that message. There was just something a little off about him.”
Nearly a year and a half would pass before his name would resurface in Munger’s mind. Rafferty, 28, was charged Tuesday with the murder and abduction of 8-year-old Tori Stafford. Terri-Lynne McClintic, 18, was also charged with abduction and being an accessory to murder.
The picture former friends and acquaintances of Rafferty paint is of a man of contradictions. While most describe him as intelligent and even funny, “weird” and “odd” are also common adjectives. But the thought Rafferty could be capable of kidnapping and killing a little girl never existed. Until now.
Munger, a St. Thomas resident, says she first met Rafferty in Toronto in 2001 when he was living at a friend’s house on Queen St. W.
She said Rafferty, then unemployed, was nonetheless well dressed in the latest fashions. “It’s kind of hard for someone without money but you could tell he wanted to look good to impress the ladies.”
But there were hints of strangeness, enough that Munger felt no urge to keep up regular communication. “He would end his Facebook messages with comments like `I miss you’ and `You are one of the best ones.’ He was just a weird guy.”
Tina, a Woodstock resident who asked that her last name not be used, met Rafferty on the dating site plentyoffish.com a year and a half ago. She says Rafferty quickly wanted to escalate their friendship to a romantic level. When she balked, he became distant – except when he needed money or drugs.
“I mentioned … one day that my Dad has some medical problems and uses OxyContin,” recalled Tina, 26. Then “he started phoning me up asking for Oxy. At one point he said he needed it for his mom and then for himself. For a while that’s all he would call me about.”
Tina says the two hung out “all the time,” going for coffee or for drives.
“He was friendly, nice, and seemed intelligent. He talked a lot about fashion, girls and claimed he was a dance instructor,” she said.
Rafferty claimed on his MySpace page to have graduated from Alexander Mackenzie High School, but the Richmond Hill school says it didn’t happen. Rafferty only attended from Sept. ’95 to March ’96, acquiring just one credit, a York Region school board spokesman said.
Rafferty also claimed he studied to be a chef at George Brown, but on a cursory search the college found no record, a spokesperson said.
Jim Bender, owner of Lady Godiva’s Adult Emporium, which is also Woodstock’s pipes and bongs supplier, says Rafferty used to come in often to buy water pipes. “He looked worse for wear the last time I saw him” early this year, he said.