The mayor of Woodstock, Ont., issued an emotional thank-you on Saturday to the jurors who delivered a guilty verdict Friday against Michael Rafferty in the murder of Victoria (Tori) Stafford.
Pat Sobeski also thanked police, the judge and the Crown prosecutors who worked on the case and said Stafford’s killing three years ago and the trial that wrapped up on Friday have taken a toll on the picturesque town located about 55 kilometres east of London.
"How many times in the past have your heard a mayor say, ‘Oh this could have happened anywhere?’ said Sobeski. "And while that statement is true, it happened here in Woodstock and for the past three years this community has been under a cloud.
"Ironically this morning the sun is shining, there are still clouds in the sky, but our town will accept that as a symbol that it's time to begin the healing process."
Sobeski also issued condolences to the Stafford family.
Conviction is 'bittersweet' police chief says
Police chief Rod Freeman also spoke and gave thanks to the 1,000 officers from more than a dozen police forces that helped with the investigation into Stafford’s murder.
"It’s a bittersweet experience because we are very pleased with those convictions," he said. "But at the same time we truly wish in our hearts, every single one of us, that we never had to be here in the first place. We truly wish that Victoria had not been victimized and our community had not been victimized."
Sobeski also spoke about being moved by the volunteers who lined Woodstock’s main street with purple flowers, balloons and flags. Purple was Tori Stafford’s favourite colour.
"There were no names but everybody in town knew what the symbolism was," said Sobeski. "I talked to people the next day who were crying when they came down Dundas Street."
"Like every community, we have issues with drugs, we have issues with domestic violence but we can seize the opportunities as the city moves forward and we can do so because of the inspiration of the innocence of Tori Stafford."
"This community will lovingly remember her."