Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Understanding the Monster

I hesitate to write this post because I don't agree with the excessive amount of media attention given to psychopaths who do very evil things. I think that school shootings and the like are massively over-reported in the media and I think that the exposure is likely a contributing factor that leads to them in the first place. Disturbed young people often seek attention. If they feel powerless and empty in their life, they may feel that, no matter how destructive their actions are and no matter what the long-term consequences are, some media glory is worth it. And, in the case I am about to write about, this seems to be the case. This case has been over-reported in the Canadian media and the perpetrators, in my opinion, should disappear from the public eye forever.

In April 2009, a little 8-year old girl was walking home from school in Woodstock, Ontario. She was abducted by an 18-year old woman, Terri-Lynne McClintic, and taken to a waiting car in which sat 28-year old Michael Rafferty. McClintic pleaded guilty to first degree murder and is serving a life sentance (which in Canada means no chance of parole for 25 years). Rafferty was recently found guilty of first degree murder by a jury of his peers and was sentenced by a judge to the same fate. Rafferty in particular is unlikely to ever be released from prison.

McClintic is not the kind of girl you want your son to bring home to meet mom. She was a drug abuser, violent, and had a criminal history. Rafferty seems even worse, a predatory psychopath who "dated" (i.e. had sex with) over a dozen women, including McClintic, in the spring of 2009. His extensive sexual escapades appeared insufficient, however, and he desired to have sex with a child. He downloaded child pornography, and eventually determined that he needed to actually go through with his fantasy of pedophilia and so convinced McClintic to help him abduct poor innocent little Tori Stafford. McClintic convinced Tori to get into the car, and then Rafferty drove them to a hardware store to buy a hammer and garbage bags for the gruesome murder that they planned with forethought for poor Tori. McClintic and Tori waited in the car while Rafferty went in and bought the murder weapon.

They drove Tori to a secluded spot 100 km from her home and Rafferty repeatedly raped her while she pleaded with McClintic to make him stop. Then, one or the other or both of McClintic or Rafferty repeatedly hit Tori in the head with the hammer and killed her. They put her body in the garbage bags, covered it with some rocks in a field and left it there.

For three months Tori's parents, family, and friends wondered what had happened to her. For three months they went through every parent's nightmare of not knowing what happened to their child. Then, eventually, a police officer got a lead and found Tori's remains.

I'm not a supporter of the death penalty, but this case certainly had me re-thinking my position. I don't think Rafferty or McClintic are capable of rehabilitation. I don't think they've shown the slightest sign of any remorse. I'm not convinced they even acknoweldge to themselves that what they did was wrong. I am convinced that if they were given the chance to do something similar again, they would. These two individuals have no place being free in our society. The judge, when sentencing Rafferty, called him a monster. I would agree. Were I Tori Stafford's father, I would have probably dedicated my life to finding a way to kill the man. Even now, I would probably dedicate myself to finding a way to kill him if he is ever released from prison. That's just a natural fatherly instinct. No scumbag deserves to live after doing that to your little girl.

Now to the point of this post. As I say, I hesitate to even write this post because people like McClintic and Rafferty deserve to spend the rest of their miserable lives in anonymity in prison. Never again should their names appear in the media. They should spend 24 hours in a cell contemplating their evil deeds.

With one little caveat. I believe it is worth studying these types of psychological monsters. As a society we do need to understand where these types of people come from. What makes a person like McClintic or Rafferty? Are they born that way or do they develop that way through some terrible combination of personality and upbringing? I think these are questions worth knowing so that we can identify others in the same boat and try to offer them the help they need before they do similar evil things in our society. Wouldn't it be a great small positive note to this tragic, horrible story if a psychologist finally broke through into McClintic's psyche and understood where she went wrong and then some parent somewhere recognized the same destructive path in their child and fixed it? Wouldn't it be great if we could use this case to prevent another child like Tori Stafford from suffering the same fate?

I am not promoting rights for the perpetrators. I am not promoting a public examination of these monsters, or providing them with the publicity they probably will want once they are serving their sentences. What I am suggesting is that we need to find a way to understand what causes an 18 year old woman and a 28 year old man to go so completely off the rails that they would be capable of destroying an innocent life. Most of us cannot imagine performing such incredibly evil and horrible things. Just saying: "Lock them up and throw away the key" isn't going to prevent the next one. Instead I say: "Lock them up and throw away the key, and at the same time let's spend some effort on understanding what created such monsters."

1 comment:

  1. Great article. I agree 100% that childhood intervention (before age 3) is the key. We need to invest in that age group more than we do.