Ex-homicide cops troubled by Tori's case
Published Thursday, April 30, 2009 8:27PM EDT
Two former Toronto homicide detectives say they find many troubling aspects to the disappearance of Woodstock girl Tori Stafford more than three weeks ago.
"What's the reason for this? What would be the motive behind taking this girl away from her family?" asked Chris Wilson as he spoke with CTV Toronto on Thursday.
"The whole case has got 'mystery' written all around it," added Dave Perry of Investigative Solutions Network as he prepared to launch his boat for the season.
There is no violent crime scene, and no trace of the victim has turned up despite an intensive search by the Oxford Community Police and the Ontario Provincial Police.
The only evidence is the now-famous videotape of a woman leading Tori away from a school on the afternoon of April 8.
"This one has the earmarks of someone who is known to the family," Perry said, adding the video clearly shows that the person leading the eight-year-old away knows Tori.
The Zhang kidnapping
Perry was the lead investigator for a high-profile Toronto kidnapping and murder -- Cecilia Zhang.
In October 2003, Chinese foreign exchange student Min Chen grabbed Cecilia from her family home as her parents slept, intending to hold her for ransom to raise $25,000. The money was intended for a marriage of convenience that would keep him in Canada.
He ended up strangling the nine-year-old girl -- by accident, Chen claimed.
Chen had befriended the Zhangs through a woman who had lived in that home.
It would be five months before a passerby found Cecilia's remains in a ravine near Mississauga. Chen was sentenced to life in prison with no parole eligibility for 15 years after he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.
In Tori's case, there has been no ransom demand made.
There has been a bizarre story from Tara McDonald, Tori's mother, about being taken by limousine to an airport hotel in Toronto to meet with a mystery person who has offered to pay whatever it takes to bring Tori home.
This person reportedly carries around a baggie full of his or her own dead child's hair, McDonald told reporters earlier this week.
"I've been in the policing business a long time and I've never heard of that happening," Perry said of the woman's story.
"You know my concern is that someone maybe trying to take advantage of the situation, they may not be even connected to the case and see an opportunity to maybe scam for some money," Wilson said.
He chalks it up more to Hollywood-style fantasy than anything.
McDonald said police have confirmed the mystery person is "totally legit," but Const. Laurie-Anne Maitland would only tell reporters Wednesday the information "does not cause us concern."
Police investigating Tori's case haven't made it sound like they are on the verge of a breakthrough.
"I've worked cases like this and you've just got to throw the net out and look at every other avenue," Perry said.
"Sooner or later, you're going to do something or hear something that will put you on the right track."
The two now-private detectives say that the investigators in Tori's case will be going through mountains of time-consuming leads.
They suggest the $50,000 reward could pay dividends by helping shake loose a key piece of information.
Meanwhile, in Woodstock, McDonald complained that attention is being taken away from finding Tori.
"I'd like everybody to bring their attention back to the reason we're standing out here," she said from outside her home.
Rodney Stafford, the girl's father, said the speculation had to stop and the focus be put on finding his daughter.
With a report from CTV Toronto's Austin Delaney