Mother describes day Tori Stafford disappeared

Victoria (Tori) Stafford's mother told a London, Ont., court about the day her daughter disappeared and said she had twice met the woman who later pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the eight-year-old's death.

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The investigation into Victoria (Tori) Stafford's disappearance grew 'exponentially' in the days following her disappearance, the court heard. (Dave Chidley/Canadian Press)

Victoria (Tori) Stafford's mother told a London, Ont., court Wednesday about the day her daughter disappeared and said she had met the woman who later pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the eight-year-old's death.

Tara McDonald said she had seen Terri-Lynne McClintic on two separate occasions — when she accompanied her partner James Goris to buy drugs from McClintic's mother and to discuss dog breeding.

McDonald was testifying on the third day of the trial of Michael Rafferty, who is accused of first-degree murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm and abduction. He has pleaded not guilty. 

McDonald said she had been dealing with a drug addiction and admitted to taking OxyContin on the afternoon of April 8, 2009, the day Tori Stafford disappeared after leaving her school in Woodstock, Ont.

Her remains were found more than three months later in a rural area near Mount Forest, north of Woodstock.

McClintic pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in April 2010 and was sentenced to life in prison.

Much of McDonald's testimony focused on events the day her daughter disappeared.

The Grade 3 pupil had been planning to have some friends over to watch a movie musical after school, but she did not come home, McDonald said. She was usually let out of school at 3:25 p.m.

Under cross-examination, McDonald said she did not start looking for Tori until 4:30 p.m. She set out on foot and her son, Daryn, searched on his bicycle.

They searched the neighbourhood before contacting police later that evening. 

Siblings were ‘extremely close’

Tori and Daryn were then both students at Oliver Stephens Public School. McDonald said the siblings were "extremely close" and often walked to school together.

Tara McDonald testified she immediately started to look for her daughter, Victoria (Tori) Stafford, when it was apparent the girl was missing. (Dave Chidley/Canadian Press)

McDonald said she told Daryn to walk home with his sister that day, but he took another child home. When Daryn went back to the school, Tori was gone.

McDonald described her daughter as both a "girly" girl and a "tomboy," who would jump in puddles and touch worms while wearing a dress.

She told defence lawyer Dirk Derstine that she had spoken to Tori about not talking to strangers and that her daughter had done an art project on the subject.

Search for Tori grew ‘exponentially’

After the defence finished questioning McDonald, the Crown called Staff Sgt. Paul Hess to testify.

Hess told the court that police became aware of Tori’s disappearance at 6:04 p.m. Police searched her school but found no trace of her. They had made no progress in the case by midnight, Hess said.

The following day, local police asked other police forces in southwestern Ontario for assistance and within a week, they'd called in the Ontario Provincial Police.

"It just exponentially ramped up," Hess said of the investigation.

Testimony on Wednesday began with OPP Const. Gary Scoyne, who said police catalogued 1,100 physical items collected during their investigation and took 4,500 photos.

Victoria (Tori) Stafford was a Grade 3 student at Oliver Stephens Public School in Woodstock, Ont., when she disappeared in April 2009.

He said the scale of the case was "enormous" and involved more than 900 officers.

"I have worked on major cases before, but this is, the volume of this, was enormous and the amount of personnel was too," Scoyne said.

Scoyne was responsible for exhibit management during the Stafford investigation and also attended the autopsy after the girl's remains were found.

Jurors were shown 52 ground-view photos of the Woodstock area where Tori was last seen. They also saw photographs of the area around College Avenue Secondary School, the local high school where security cameras captured video of Tori and a woman walking on the day she disappeared. McClintic has admitted to being the woman in the video.

Scoyne said Tori’s mother lived in a house just a block and a half from the high school.

Under cross-examination, Scoyne was asked if he had personally walked around Woodstock. The OPP officer responded that he had not, though he had driven through as part of the investigation.

The Crown told the court that Scoyne will be called to testify on several occasions during the trial, which is likely to last several months.

The Crown alleges McClintic lured Tori towards Rafferty's car before they drove to Guelph and then to a rural area 100 kilometres north of the city.

The trial continues on Thursday.

With files from the CBC's Melanie Nagy, Steven D'Souza and The Canadian Press