Family struggles five years after Tori Stafford went missing

Randy Richmond, The London Free Press

, Last Updated: 4:38 PM ET

LONDON, Ont. -- Five years after their beloved tomboy princess went missing, the family of Victoria "Tori" Stafford still struggles with the pain and the prospect of another trial.

But they're also showing signs of growing strength in their personal lives and remain strong in a conviction to keep alive the memory of the slain Woodstock, Ont., school girl, as well as the lessons of her disappearance.

"People keep asking us if we're ever going to be able to forgive them (the killers), because we're not going to move on until they're forgiven," Tori's mother, Tara McDonald, said.

"I just can't see it happening. Ever. How do you forgive two people who destroyed your life on a whim?"

On April 8, 2009, Tori -- a spunky eight-year-old, who loved dresses and makeup as much as mucking about outdoors -- disappeared while walking home from her school in Woodstock.

A surveillance video from a nearby high school, released the next day by police, showed her walking up the street with an unknown woman.


Surveillance video shows Terri-Lynne McClintic leading Tori Stafford to the car. (HANDOUT)

That video was among the factors that fuelled an explosion of media coverage and interest across Canada. The OPP took over the investigation from the Woodstock force, criticized for its handling of the case, and launched the biggest search in the provincial force's history.

The police and members of the public focused their suspicion on Tori's mother, and the family's struggles took centre stage in the media and on the Internet.

The hopes of thousands were crushed with the arrest of two people for the girl's murder in May 2009. Tori's body was found in a remote woods on a farmer's property near Mount Forest, Ont. in July.


Tori Stafford. (QMI AGENCY FILE/HANDOUT)

She'd been killed with a hammer and her body disposed of in garbage bags under a pile of rocks.

Terri-Lynne McClintic, the woman seen in the surveillance video, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in April 2010. Her ex-boyfriend, Michael Rafferty, was found guilty of first-degree murder, kidnapping and sexual assault in May 2012, but is appealing his conviction with taxpayers footing his legal bills.

As the fifth anniversary of Tori's disappearance approaches family members spoke to QMI Agency about their memories, hopes and struggles.


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