*This is the second of a two part series into the murder of Tori Stafford. To read part one, click here.*
TRIAL & SENTENCING:
Terri-Lynne McClintic was scheduled to make an appearance in court on April 30, 2010, but details of the proceedings were blocked by a publication ban. When it was lifted on December 9, 2010, it was revealed she’d plead guilty to the charges against her and had been sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. She was initially held at the Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener, Ontario.
According to her statement, she was the one who’d persuaded Tori to get into the car with her and Rafferty on the guise of showing her a dog. While she’d initially said Rafferty was the one who’d killed Tori, she would later change her story to say she was the one who’d actually committed the murder.
While McClintic is not technically able to apply for parole until 25 years have passed, she could become eligible in 2024, 15 years after being sentenced, due to the Faint Hope Clause. It was introduced in 1976 when Canada was abolishing the death penalty and allowed those serving sentences for first- and second-degree murder to apply for judicial review in order to reduce their sentences. The purpose was to incentivize rehabilitation, with the aim of convincing a justice with the provincial Superior Court to allow a jury to hear their case and decide if they’d be eligible for early parole. While the law was removed from the books in December 2011, it still applies to those who were sentenced before the date it was abolished.
Lawyers agreed to change the venue for Rafferty’s trial from Woodstock to London, Ontario, citing concerns he would not be able to receive a fair trial in the city. Pre-trial motions began in January 2012, but were subjected to a publication ban. On February 29, 2012, Rafferty plead not guilty to charges of kidnapping, sexual assault and first-degree murder.
The trial commenced on March 5, 2012.
Throughout the course of the trial, Rafferty sat in the prisoner’s dock. The defence argued that he’d been a “horrified” spectator to McClintic’s plan to kidnap and murder Tori over a drug debt and that she’d offered the young girl to him as a sexual “gift”, an offer he’d turned down. He did not take the stand in his own defence.
Tori’s teacher was one of the first to testify and claimed to have seen her walking behind a woman who had appeared to be in a hurry. It was revealed her information had been used to create a composite sketch of the woman before she was determined to be Terri-Lynne McClintic.
Tara testified that she’d crossed paths with McClintic on a few occasions, once to purchase drugs from her house and another to discuss possibly breeding their dogs. She emphasized to the jury that there’s no way her daughter would have walked off with a stranger.
McClintic was the star witness in the trial. She outlined her and Rafferty’s relationship for the jury, saying they’d first met a pizza shop and had sex in his car that night. The relationship had progressed quickly, with McClintic sharing that she cared deeply for him and would often buy him OxyContin.
On the day in question, McClintic said she’d signed in at the local employment office before returning home, where she found Rafferty waiting in the driveway. He’d asked her if she wanted to travel to Guelph with him, then made his way to the area near Tori’s school. It was then he asked McClintic if she’d abduct a young child for him. From there, he outlined the plan: she would abduct a young girl, as they were, in his opinion, easier to manipulate.
McClintic told the jury that the two of them parked in the parking lot of the Caressant Care Retirement Home across from College Avenue Secondary School. Her initial plan was to pretend to try and abduct a girl before returning to Rafferty to say the plan had failed. However, she knew he was watching her and decided to approach the first child she saw walking alone. That child ended up being Tori Stafford.
After speaking with Tori about their pets – both Shih Tzu dogs – McClintic managed to convince the 8-year-old to come back to her car to “meet” hers. Once Tori was in the car, she was placed at the bottom of the backseat, under Rafferty’s coat. During the drive, she continually asked where they were going, to which McClintic responded they were simply going for a drive, as she too did not know Rafferty’s end location. Along the way, they stopped at several locations, including Tim Horton’s, an ATM and Home Depot, from which McClintic purchased garbage bags and a clawed hammer.
Once they arrived at a seemingly remote wooded area, McClintic claims she knew what was about to happen. She said Rafferty began to masturbate while driving along the country roads, and when they pulled off into the area, he moved to the back of the car and began to sexually assault Tori, during which the young girl begged McClintic not to leave her. McClintic walked away from the vehicle upon hearing Tori’s screams, as they’d caused her to relive flashbacks to her own childhood, and she only returned once Rafferty had placed the young girl on the ground outside of the car. It was then that McClintic kicked her a few times before placing a garbage over her head and hitting her with the hammer.
Afterward, McClintic said they hid Tori’s body and Rafferty cleaned himself up with water waters and McClintic’s jacket – the same one seen in the surveillance footage. After making efforts to hide their tire tracks, they left the scene and stopped at a car wash, where they cleaned and shampooed the vehicle. Once home, she took some OxyContin.
A focus of the trial was the shoes McClintic wore that day. She claimed Rafferty had instructed her to throw them out of the car window while they drove down a side road. They’d been located along a rural road north of Guelph in April 2009.
McClintic revealed her decision to take the fall for the murder if the investigation led to her, as she felt Rafferty had more to lose than she did. She said she was the only one to have wielded the hammer.
When asked about her initial denial over being the woman in the surveillance footage, McClintic said she had reached a point where she’d been psychologically unable to fathom that she’d killed Tori, claiming she’d blocked the event out and genuinely believed she wasn’t the woman in the tape.
During the trial, the jury visited the scene where Tori’s remains were found, in order to better understand the evidence presented to them. They also heard that Rafferty had been stressed in the days after the murder, as told by a woman named Barbara Armstrong, who sold him Perocet during a stop in Guelph the night Tori was abducted.
Rafferty’s past girlfriends were put on the stand throughout the duration of the trial, in order to present his character to the jury. What jurors weren’t told about were his computer searches, which included the term “rape”, the child pornography found on his computer, his torture sex fantasies, his past of being a serial cheater and that he’d convinced a former partner to become an escort, whose earnings he lived off of.
On May 11, 2012, after nearly a full day of deliberations, the jury found Rafferty guilty on all charges. Four days later, he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 25 years. Rafferty would eventually try to appeal the decision under the claim the judge had given the jury flawed instructions. For the next four years, Rafferty would work to bring the appeal into motion, but to no avail, as it would be dismissed on October 24, 2016, the same day it was heard by the appeals court judge.
On August 8, 2010, Rodney and Daryn completed a 3,500km charity bike ride from Woodstock to Edmonton, Alberta in Tori’s honour. Those in support of Tori and her case annually participate in the motorcycle-centred Iron Sirens Ride For Tori Stafford.
In 2012, McClintic plead guilty to assaulting a fellow inmate while in Grand Valley. The crown called it a “completely unprovoked” attack, and in a letter sent to a friend, she’d written that she’d regretted not causing worse injuries to the woman.
McClintic was reclassified from a maximum-security inmate to a minimum-security one in 2014.
In October 2018, McClintic was moved to the Okimaw Healing Lodge on the Nekaneet First Nation, close to Maple Creek, Saskatchewan. The lodge is run by the Correctional Services of Canada. She was granted the move after she identified herself as an Indigenous person – however, if she actually is of Indigenous heritage has not been confirmed and has been disputed by her brother. It should be noted that the CSC allows inmates to self-identify as Indigenous, without needing to provide proof, and that non-Aboriginal inmates can live at the lodge, as long as they agree to follow its programming and spirituality.
Healing lodges were first put forward by the Native Women’s Association of Canada in 1990, with the legislation officially passing in 1992. They were created in response to the amount of Indigenous individuals who were incarcerated, as they were over-represented in the nation’s prison populations, and their aim is to reduce harm and bring about healing through the use of cultural teachings and spiritual practices.
Currently, there are two ways in which they are run. They can be funded and operated by the CSC and its staff, or they can be funded by the CSC and managed by community partner organizations.
Those with knowledge of Canada’s prison system are of two minds regarding the effectiveness of healing lodges. While researchers overall have found that “culturally-appropriate environments can contribute to the healing process of the offenders”, there are conflicting findings surrounding repeat offences for residents, compared to those residing in minimum-security prisons.
The Okimaw Healing Lodge is a minimum/medium-security prison that’s unfenced and monitored 24/7 with video cameras. It serves as a place where Indigenous peoples can develop a better relationship with their culture through the use of traditional practices and a healing plan that utilizes a holistic approach. It’s aim is to focus on issues of employment, family, substance abuse and education, and its approach includes the use of healing circles, sweat lodges and pipe ceremonies. Those living at the lodge reside in shared spaces, meaning they clean and cook together and can participate in programming aimed at making life easier for them upon their release.
Rodney was contacted for his input about the transfer, but the CSC was unable to reach him, as he’d recently moved. When relatives were finally able to inform him, McClintic had already been moved to Saskatchewan. Angered by the decision, he wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, asking him to reverse the move. Residents of Maple Creek also showed their support for Rodney by protesting outside of the healing lodge. According to those on the front lines, McClintic had been residing at the lodge for nine months before they found out about the transfer and they worried for the safety of the children of those currently incarcerated, given her convictions.
Prime Minister Trudeau faced scrutiny on Parliament Hill when he acknowledged he didn’t have the ability to return McClintic to Grand Valley, given it fell under the purview of the CSC. He was also criticized for referring to the Conservative party as “ambulance-chasing politicians” after Conservative justice critic Tony Clement said the move risked hurting the public’s faith in the Canadian justice system and could lead to acts of vigilantism. At the same time, then-Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said the Liberal party should immediately reverse the transfer. Conservative MP Candice Bergen introduced a motion in Parliament to both condemn and overturn the decision. After a day’s debate, it was defeated 200-82, with all Liberal MPs and the NDP voting against it. Trudeau did not take part in the vote.
Under increasing pressure from the public, then-Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Ralph Goodale ordered CSC to review the transfer and the general policy surrounding inmates being moved to healing lodges. When asked by news organization CTV, he said prison management officials felt the move was the best way to rectify McClintic’s past actions and keep the public safe. Anne Kelly, the then newly-appointed Commissioner of the CSC, stated she was comfortable with the move and felt it was for the best. However, the Chief of the Nekaneet First Nation said none of the reserve’s elders had been consulted and likely would not have allowed the transfer to occur if they’d been asked for their input.
On November 7, 2018, Goodale announced McClintic would be returned to Grand Valley, after a brief stay at the multi-level Edmonton Institution for Women, and that the regulations surrounding inmate transfers to healing lodges would be made stricter. The new regulations would make it more difficult for prisoners serving long-term sentences to be moved to such facilities.
As a result of the move back to prison, McClintic sought compensation for what she called “unfair treatment”. She claimed the move had led to a loss of liberty and that it had been “unreasonably and procedurally unfair, and therefore unlawful”. The matter was later dropped.
Up until her move to the healing lodge, McClintic had received 23 infractions while at Grand Valley.
Rafferty was eventually moved from a maximum-security prison to the medium-security La Macaza Institution in Quebec. This too angered the Stafford family. However, despite public outcry, Goodale held firm on the decision, insisting the prison was no less secure than others and that it specialized in the treatment of sex offenders.
The police response to Tori’s disappearance and the failure to announce an AMBER Alert was criticized by the public and was the focus of a review into the AMBER Alert system in Canada. According to the Oxford Community Police, they’d requested to have one activated, but the OPP said the case didn’t meet the criteria at the time. Since the review, the criteria has been broadened, with law enforcement agencies no longer needing proof that an abduction has occurred, only that the missing child could be in danger.
Since Tori’s death, Rodney has become an advocate for child safety. Over the years, he’s attended numerous rallies in Ottawa to call for stricter prison sentences for violent offenders, including the removal of parole for those convicted of murdering a child or other vulnerable person. He wanted the change to be called “Tori’s Law” and it has been advocated for by many across Canada. Rodney set up a Change.org petition for those wishing to show their support.
On Tori’s 20th birthday, Rodney asked the residents of southwestern Ontario to honour her life and memory by doing random acts of kindness for those around them.
Tara says she suffers from PTSD as a result of her daughter’s murder. She started using OxyContin again not long after and has since sought treatment for her relapse. She’s shared that she avoids hammers, garbage bags and the street where she and her children used to live at the time of Tori’s abduction. While she says years of counselling have helped, she’s found it hard to find a counsellor who understands homicide. She had the opportunity to speak with Rafferty, which helped her find some closure, but she refuses to speak with McClintic.
Tara has shared that, while she and Rodney no longer speak, she’s happy to see him advocating on behalf of Tori. She herself has become a doula to help support and guide women when they give birth. It’s her way of moving forward from the terrible events that occurred on April 8, 2009.
In April 2018, Rodney helped in the search for 3-year-old Kaden Young, who was swept away by the Grand River, near Grand Valley, Ontario, during February flooding. Kaden’s body was eventually found along the riverbank in Belwood, Ontario. His mother is set to stand trial in relation to his death, which was caused by her car being swept into the flood waters after she ignored a road closure sign. While she’d managed to get them both loose from the vehicle, the water swept Kaden out of her arms. She has since been charged with impaired driving causing death and criminal negligence causing death, amongst other charges.
In March 2021, news organization Global News learnt that Rafferty had been accused by family members of extorting his mother and grandmother while in jail. One family member alleged Rafferty made calls while he was in maximum-security, saying he was in the infirmary and needed money to buy himself protection. It was later found out that he’d only been attacked once and was not in constant danger, like he claimed. He was simply playing on his mother’s fears and manipulating her in order to pay back prisoners who were doing him favours, such as purchasing food from the prison canteen.
The relative provided Global with copies of cheques and money order receipts spanning from 2014 to 2018, which showed his mother had sent tens of thousands of dollars to the spouses of inmates in Quebec and British Columbia. She did not know any of these individuals personally. When Global contacted those named in the documents, they would not corroborate the claims. Rafferty also refused to comment.
The relative in question repeatedly contacted the CSC to try and stop the calls, but they continued to occur. He also claimed to have had an email conversation with officials throughout most of 2019, which included him sending copies of the receipts, but he has yet to hear anything further. In a statement to Global, a spokesperson with the CSC said that, given the Privacy Act, they were unable to comment on specifics, but that they review any and all information brought to their attention by victims and the families of inmates.
In August 2018, Rafferty’s mother died of a heart attack at the age of 60, after suffering previous health issues. Rafferty’s family holds him responsible and feels her death was the result of the constant stress she was under due to his calls and the resulting financial struggles she faced.
Once his mother was unable to support him, Rafferty turned to his grandmother, who passed away shortly after his mother.
The relative who contacted Global claimed he and Rodney had written to the government, asking for an opportunity to discuss what Rafferty was doing behind bars and why he should be moved back to a maximum-security prison, but they have not received a response back. As for why he’s decided to speak out, he shares that he hopes it will reopen the conversation surrounding Rafferty’s prison move. He also wishes to stand in solidarity with Tori’s family.
It should be noted that none of the claims presented by Rafferty’s relative have been proven.
Image Credit: Toronto Sun