Police vow to find Tori's body

RANDY RICHMOND, LONDON FREE PRESS

, Last Updated: 12:55 PM ET

WOODSTOCK -- The search for little Victoria (Tori) Stafford has turned into a grim hunt for her body, with yesterday's charges of abduction and murder against a man and a woman delivering a harsh conclusion but no closure for her family.

"I still love her with all my heart and until I see her, I will not lay this to rest," her father, Rodney Stafford, said.

"I'm devastated. I don't know where to go now. There are no words to describe it."

Police vowed yesterday they won't rest until they unite the eight-year-old girl's body with her grieving parents.

"The most important mission we have yet to accomplish is to reunite Victoria with her loved ones," Oxford Community police Chief Ron Fraser said.

Police were concentrating their search for her body on a farm field 15 km north of Guelph late yesterday.

"This is certainly not the end everybody or anyone was hoping for," Fraser said.

"There are no consoling words to offer or profound words of wisdom to make this news easy for anyone to accept or convey," he said at a news conference.

Charged with first-degree murder and abduction is Michael Thomas C.S. Rafferty, 28, of 70 Tennyson St. in Woodstock.

Charged with accessory after the fact to murder, and abduction, is Terri-Lynne McClintic, 18, of 74 Wilson St. of Woodstock.

Police offered few details about the arrests, confirming they were made without a crime scene or a body found.

Sources told The Free Press someone confessed to the crime and McClintic was co-operating with police.

"Based on the information we have confirmed, the substance of a murder charged is valid," OPP Det. Insp. Bill Renton said.

Police said they weren't likely to charge any more people.

They also said one of the accused was in custody before the arrests were made.

Sources said McClintic was wanted on outstanding warrants and had been taken into custody earlier.

Police said McClintic and Tara McDonald, Tori's mother, were acquaintances.

"I believe they are familiar with one another," Renton said.

A neighbour of McClintic said he tipped police off three weeks ago and again this week as he learned more about the woman who lived next door on Wilson St.

He was shocked when he saw a video released by police of a woman walking with Tori after school April 8, the last day she was seen alive, neighbour Craig Recine said.

"Oh my God, that's the girl next door," he said.

Stafford, a bubbly Grade 3 pupil at Oliver Stephens public school, was captured on the video shot from a nearby high school surveillance camera. It showed her walking with an unknown woman in a white coat and pulled-back hair.

Recine said he and his girlfriend learned some disturbing details about their neighbour, McClintic, and Rafferty whom they sometimes saw there.

"They acted weird," he said, without elaborating.

Recine said he called police about the couple a couple of days ago, frustrated because nothing was happening.

Stafford said yesterday several friends told him they'd also given the names of the accused to police several weeks ago.

Police wouldn't comment on suggestions they had tips about the accused earlier.

For more than a month, the police and public focused their attention on Tori's mother, McDonald, and her friends.

"We are satisfied at this point we have the persons responsible and we don't anticipate any other arrests at this time," Renton said.

He didn't comment when asked if he had anything to say to McDonald or her family, who've been subjected to daily police surveillance.

Stafford told reporters he'd heard McDonald wanted to breed her dog with the dog owned by McClintic's mother, who also lived in the apartment on Wilson St.

Stafford and McDonald learned of the arrests Tuesday night from police.

Stafford said he was in Port Bruce, collecting worn glass and stones on the beach with his son, Daryn, 11 -- Tori's brother -- when he got the call to meet police at his ex-wife's house.

Yesterday morning, he and McDonald had to tell Daryn.

His son asked through tears, "So does this mean I do not get to hang out with my sister any more? I don't get to see her anymore?" Stafford said.

Stafford said he told his son those responsible would be punished by the full weight of the law.

"Daryn said, 'That's not enough.' He wants to see them in the electric chair."

Later yesterday, Stafford's family gathered in the Woodstock backyard of his sister Randi, and brother-in-law, Steve Millen.

As news filtered in about the accused, Tori's grandmother, Doreen Graichen, broke down several times, leaning over in agony.

McDonald stayed inside her Frances St. home. She declined to talk to the media.

"She's just not up to it," a cousin said.

Throughout the morning, friends and family dropped off flowers and gifts at McDonald's home, scene of daily news conferences for the past six weeks.

Meanwhile, yesterday, the two accused made brief court appearances in court in Woodstock.

McClintic was read her charges first, appearing in the basement courtroom dressed all in black with her hair in braids. She remained composed as her charges were read.

Rafferty was visibly upset as he entered the courtroom, exchanging glances with his mother who was seated in the front row. Before the justice of the peace arrived, Rafferty broke down and began crying.

When he stood to have his charges read and was asked if he understood them, he said "yes" through tears.

As Rafferty was led from court to a police van, Rob Stafford, Tori's uncle, lunged at him and shouted obscenities. Police kept him at bay.

Both remain in custody until a May 28 court appearance.

At a news conference, police defended their decision not to call an Amber Alert, the Canadian emergency broadcast system used when children are believed abducted and at risk of harm.

"The criteria of Tori's reported disappearance did not meet the criteria of the Amber Alert," Chief Fraser said. "The amber alert would not have made any difference."

"Having said that we utilized the local media as fast as we could to get the information out."

Police notified a few local radio stations early the next morning after Tori's abduction, but not the wider media until 6 a.m. -- 12 hours after police learned she was missing.

Officials with the Thames Valley District school board also defended the policies that guide dismissal of their students.

A grandfather of a child in Tori's class told The Free Press children in younger grades aren't supposed to be let out until guardians arrive.

Yet, he saw Tori standing alone that day after school.

Many teachers were outside with her, but she walked away alone, he said.

"The schools are safe," director of education Bill Tucker said yesterday. "I believe firmly that there's no aspect of this crime that would have happened differently based on our own policies and practices and procedures."

School policies may be reviewed at a later date, he said.


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