The Murder of Tori Stafford: Part 1

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EARLY LIFE:

Victoria “Tori” Stafford was born on July 15, 2000 to parents Rodney Stafford and Tara McDonald. The youngest of two children, her parents divorced when she was two years old, resulting in she and her brother living with their mother, Tara MacDonald, and eventually her new partner, James Goris. For the most part, it is reported that Rodney largely stayed out of his children’s lives.

Tori is described by those who knew her as a bubbly and caring child who fit somewhere between the distinctions of “girly girl” and “tomboy”. While she loved dressing up and dancing, she also wasn’t afraid to get dirty and go exploring. She had a feisty spirit and loved to make others laugh. While she’s said to have been a nightmare to wake up in the morning for school, she was always up bright and early on Sunday mornings, so she could attend church with her maternal grandmother.

During her short life, Tori was extremely close to her older brother, Daryn. The pair were best friends and would often walk together to Oliver Stephens Public School, where they were both students.

LEAD UP TO DISAPPEARANCE:

In early April 2009, Tori and her family moved into a new home, just a block away from her elementary school. They’d previously been residing with their maternal grandmother, and the family as a whole was excited to have a new place to call their own.

April 8, 2009 started out as a normal day. Daryn and Tori walked to school and spent the day in class, before being dismissed at 3:25pm. While Daryn would usually walk home with his little sister, he first had to drop off some younger children at their home, which was right next to Oliver Stephens Public School. When he returned, Tori wasn’t there, so he assumed she’d left without him. It would be her first day walking home alone.

According to her teacher, Tori had left the classroom approximately five minutes after her classmates, as she’d accidentally left behind a pair of butterfly earrings she’d borrowed from her mother. At around 3:32pm, a security camera at College Avenue Secondary School captured footage of her being led down Fyfe Avenue by an unknown woman in a white coat. Tori herself was wearing a black Hannah Montana jacket with a white fur-lined hood, a green t-shirt, a denim skirt, and black and white shoes. She’d been carrying a purple and pink Bratz-brand purse.

DISAPPEARANCE:

When Daryn arrived home, he found Tor absent, which struck him as odd, since she’d been expected there around 3:45pm. He grabbed his bike and went to look for her, but couldn’t find her. 10 minutes later, a friend of hers called the house and left a message regarding her and Tori’s plans that evening, as the young girl had invited a few of her closest friends over for a movie night.

At 4:30pm, Tara left the house and began looking for her daughter on foot. By that time, Daryn was visiting with his cousin, who lived nearby. It was there that he received a call from his mother, saying Tori still hadn’t come home. She’d contacted some of Tori’s friends, but she wasn’t with any of them.

At 5:20pm, Tara called her mother, Linda Winters. The pair drove around Woodstock looking for Tori and came across a police officer parked outside of Oliver Stephens Public School. They informed him of the situation and were told to head to the police station to file a missing persons report.

Tori Stafford was officially reported missing at 6:04pm that evening. Rodney was informed of his daughter’s disappearance about 20 minutes later, at 6:25pm.

SEARCH:

The initial investigation into Tori’s disappearance was led by the Oxford Community Police Service. The day after she was reported missing, the agency contacted other police services from around southwestern Ontario to ask for assistance, and the Ontario Provincial Police eventually became involved on April 17, 2009.

The night investigators were notified of Tori’s disappearance, they searched around her elementary school, but found no trace of her. Rodney called around to various family members to see if they’d seen or heard from his daughter, and his apartment was searched, in order to rule him out as a suspect.

Suspicion initially rested on Tara, given how long it had taken her to report Tori missing. During an early press conference, she and Rodney had gotten into a fight, where he’d called her out for showing what he felt was a lack of emotion and she’d accused him of being an absentee father. Local residents also believed she was involved due to an OxyContin addiction, for which she was seeking treatment. Upon hearing the rumours, Tara approached the press to state that Tori’s disappearance was not related to any potential drug debt, and investigators quickly ruled out any involvement on her part.

In order to further clear themselves, both of Tori’s parents took and passed lie detector tests.

On April 9, 2009 Tori’s grandparents offered a $10,000 reward for any information leading to her return. That same day, the surveillance footage from College Avenue Secondary School was discovered. It was noted that Tori did not appear to be struggling against her alleged abductor in the footage. The next day, police released a description of the person seen with Tori, saying she was a white female between the ages of 19 and 25. She stood between 5’1″ and 5’2″, and weighed between 120 and 125 pounds. She had straight black hair that was pulled up in a ponytail, and she’d been wearing a puffy white coat and tight black jeans.

The appeal for information regarding the unknown woman resulted in numerous tips. Once such person to call investigators was Tara McDonald, who had been informed by those around her that the woman resembled an acquaintance named Terri-Lynne McClintic. Based on the tips, 18-year-old McClintic was arrested for an unrelated warrant for breach of custody and supervision. While she initially denied any involvement in the case, she would later confess to police one month later.

The search for Tori expanded outside of her local neighbourhood. Investigators, with the assistance of the Woodstock Fire Department and an OPP helicopter, combed wooded areas and ravines for any trace of the young girl.

On April 12, 2009, a vigil was held in Woodstock, where Tara made an appeal for Tori to contact the family. This would be followed a month later by an open letter, which Tara had written to her daughter. The next day, the official ground search was called off due to a lack of evidence. However, investigators remained hopeful Tori would be found alive.

After almost a week of not attending class, Tori’s schoolmates eventually returned to Oliver Stephens Public School on April 14, 2009.

On April 15, 2009, Tori’s case was showcased of America’s Most Wanted.

Further surveillance footage was released on May 4, 2009. This time, it featured footage of a dark-coloured station wagon seen driving down the same street where Tori was last seen walking with the woman.

On May 12, 2009, McClintic was interviewed a second time, where she recounted her activities on the day Tori went missing. Three days later, on May 15, she agreed to provide a written statement to investigators. It was on this day that a second suspect was interviewed, 28-year-old Michael Rafferty, with whom McClintic had recently started a relationship with. However, Rafferty denied the claim, saying he and McClintic were just friends. He also denied having any information about the disappearance, other than what he’d heard about on the news.

On May 18, 2009, Tori’s family and numerous supporters walked in Woodstock’s Victoria Day Parade.

On May 19, 2009, McClintic underwent a polygraph examination at police headquarters, where she admitted to being the woman in the video. It was then she was told she’d be charged with abduction and accessory to murder. Rafferty was also arrested that night. While at his home, police found a missing poster and a piece of paper with Tara’s home phone number on it. While he was interviewed a few hours after his arrest, he refused to confess to the crime.

It’s believed the search for Tori is one of the largest to ever occur in Canada. It included thorough searches of a landfill and officers walking along the side of a 51km stretch of Highway 401.

ARREST & DISCOVERY:

On May 20, 2009, police charged Rafferty with first-degree murder and McClintic with her two charges. Eight days later, McClintic’s charges would be increased to first-degree murder and unlawful confinement. It was decided they would be tried separately.

As news of the arrests became public, so too did details about McClintic’s upbringing. She’d been born to a stripper and adopted by another by the name of Carol McClintic. It’s unknown who her birth father is. Over the course of her childhood, she and Carol moved across Ontario to homes said to be filled with drugs, alcohol and a “parade of men”. According to her siblings, the environments she was constantly in were “incredibly harmful”, and she was known to use drugs with Carol. Despite her brother and aunt trying to intervene by calling the authorities, nothing could be done to change the situation.

According to McClintic, she started smoking when she was either 8 or 9 years old. She then escalated to using drugs and drinking alcohol, which caused her to get into trouble with the law. She’d been previously arrested for charges ranging from assault to robbery, and she has since shared a story about her microwaving her dog until it screamed. In 2007, her brother, who was with the Canadian Armed Forces, made her an offer to come stay with him, on the grounds she follow the rules and attend school, but she declined.

After her arrest, McClintic assisted investigators in the search for Tori’s remains, with her lawyer stating she wanted the family to know she was doing all she could to help. She directed investigators to the area of Highway 6 and Sideroad 6 in Wellington County, and a helicopter was used to scour the area from above. When that failed, she was reinterviewed and drew a map of the location where the remains could be located.

On July 19, 2009, a police officer was searching a field about 500 metres off Concession Road No. 6, near Mount Forest, Ontario. He’d learnt that Rafferty’s cellphone had pinged in the area on the night Tori went missing, so he’d stopped by the area to take a look. While there, he saw a house that was nearly identical to one described by McClintic, so he drove down the laneway across from it. He eventually came upon a pile of rocks and the smell of decomposition.

It was official: Tori Stafford’s body had finally been located.

Tori’s body had been stuffed into garbage bags and covered with rocks. She was naked from the waist down, wearing only her t-shirt and the butterfly earrings she’d borrowed from her mother. Her remains were brought to Toronto for a post-mortem examination, where it was revealed she’d died of blunt force trauma to the head. Her body showed signs of a beating, which had caused 16 of her ribs to break or fracture and lacerations to her liver. There were also signs of internal bleeding. The lower half of her body was severely decomposed, so it was impossible to prove she’d been sexually assaulted. However, based on the available evidence, investigators concluded an assault had likely occurred.

Rafferty’s car was taken in for examination. Blood from two different individuals, one of which being Tori, was found on the rubber moulding of the back passenger side door. Blood was also found inside a gym bag inside the vehicle, and there was a mixture of blood and semen on the back of the front passenger seat. While the back passenger seat was missing when the car was taken into custody, there are witnesses who testified to seeing it throughout the spring of 2009.

Investigators learnt that a route Rafferty frequented with an ex-girlfriend took him within minutes of where Tori had been killed. As well, it was learnt Rafferty had placed a call to his voicemail while in Mount Forest on the night of April 8, 2009. They were able to pinpoint the location by using cellphone records and pings from a nearby cell tower, information which also showed he’d travelled north through Guelph toward Mount Forest on that night.

*This is the first of a two part series into the murder of Tori Stafford. To read part two, click here.*

Image Credit: Toronto Sun

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