Tori Stafford's mother knew 1 of 2 suspects arrested in her killing
'I love her with all my heart and until I see her, I will not lay this to rest': father
Last Updated: Wednesday, May 20, 2009 | 9:04 PM ET
As police searched for Victoria Stafford's body Wednesday near Guelph, Ont., they said one of two suspects arrested in her killing is a young woman who was known to the girl's mother.
Residents in the quiet southwestern Ontario city of Woodstock were shocked Wednesday morning at the news that a local man and woman had been charged in the abduction and killing of eight-year-old Victoria, known as Tori, who was last seen leaving her school with a woman in early April.
On Wednesday morning, Michael Thomas C.S. Rafferty, 29, and Terri-Lynne McClintic, 18, made brief appearances in the Oxford County Court House, where they were formally charged.
Rafferty is charged with abduction and first-degree murder. McClintic is charged with abducting the child. She is also charged with assisting Rafferty in escaping the area and being an accessory to murder after the fact.
The two were taken into custody on Tuesday night.
At a news conference on Wednesday afternoon, OPP Det.-Insp. William Renton said he believed at least one of the accused knew Tara McDonald, Victoria's mother.
"I believe McClintic may be familiar with Tara McDonald," Renton said. "I believe they're familiar with one another."Michael Thomas C.S. Rafferty, 29, is shown in this photo from the social networking site Facebook. (Facebook/Canadian Press)
The news conference was stopped abruptly after Renton made the statement, leaving questions about the nature of the relationship unanswered.
Victoria's father, Rodney Stafford, speaking to reporters later Wednesday, said he thinks McClintic's mother was looking to breed her dog with Victoria's mother's dog. However, he said he could not be sure.
He said news of the arrests is overwhelming, and there are too many thoughts running through his head to express.
"I just don't know what to say," he said. "Right now, they're saying they have enough evidence to verify that Victoria has passed, but I myself, as Victoria's father, refuse to believe that until I actually see remains of my daughter, or my daughter's body.
"I love her with all my heart and until I see her, I will not lay this to rest," added Stafford, who was wearing a T-shirt with a picture of Victoria that read "Daddy's Little Girl."
"I've been wearing her proudly on my chest and in my heart since the day she was born."
Tori's brother Daryn, 11, is devastated and bewildered, said Stafford.
"His first reaction was, 'So this means [I] can't hang out with my sister any more.' I told him these people will be punished. That's not enough. He wants to see them in the electric chair."
News of the arrests left other family members reeling, including Tori's aunt Rebecca Stafford —Rodney Stafford's sister — who lives in Sherwood Park, east of Edmonton.
She told CBC News Wednesday her first reaction was panic when two RCMP officers came to her house around midnight last night to break the news.
"I was shaking ... there's this just strong anxiety. It's just overwhelming."
She plans to continue wearing the purple ribbon from the awareness campaign the family did in Woodstock days after Tori first went missing.
" Only once I get that the phone call that tells me that, that tells me that I shouldn't have any hope. But until then I'm definitely going to hold onto hope," she said.
"[The ribbon] really became a sign of support for us, back home, and it was uplifting, I guess you could say. You know, just going to the grocery store and someone you've never met has a purple ribbon on."
Abducted 6 weeks ago
News of Victoria's death came six weeks after the girl was abducted as she left Oliver Stephens Public School.Victoria Stafford, shown in a family photo from July 2008, has been missing since she left her school in Woodstock, Ont., on April 8. (Canadian Press)
Security camera images from April 8 show the Grade 3 student walking away from the school with an unknown woman, who had long black hair and was wearing a white jacket.
Documents filed in provincial court say police believe Victoria died that day, or shortly after.
Police were searching for her body Wednesday around Rockwood, about an hour west of Toronto.
Rafferty pulled his shirt over his head as he left the court to avoid having his image captured by news photographers.
McClintic walked into the court wearing a black top and with her dark hair set in tight braids.
Reporters in the courtroom said Rafferty broke down in tears while waiting for the judge to appear.
Both were remanded in custody until May 28.
'This is too close to home': neighbour
People in the community expressed their anger and outrage over the fate of the child.
"I live right around the corner. These people lived here for two months. This is too close to home. I have two children! There's a lot of people with children around here," said neighbour Jennifer Leyton.
"You don't think it's going to happen here. This is Woodstock," she said.
The family of the girl, who was known to her friends and family as Tori, has been in seclusion for most of the day.
Tara McDonald had made daily pleas through the media for the release of her daughter.
A message posted on the family's Facebook site on Wednesday said the comment section had been closed down.
"Out of respect for my family, I have closed down the wall temporarily," wrote Victoria's aunt, Rebecca Stafford.
"Thank you for understanding my desire to protect my family from further uncertainty."
Donna Williams, another Woodstock resident, said she was upset at the news, especially for the mother.
"The mom is a mom like I am, and I wish nobody would have to live with the loss of a child," she said.
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