Police focus on finding Tori's body after arrests
Published Wednesday, May 20, 2009 5:22PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, May 18, 2012 10:56PM EDT
Police are focusing on finding the remains of eight-year-old Victoria "Tori" Stafford now that two suspects have been arrested and charged with the Woodstock, Ont. girl's murder.
"Our work is far from over," Ontario Provincial Police Det. Insp. Bill Renton said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon. "We won't stop until we can locate Victoria. I can't stress the importance and significance of returning her to her loved ones."
A police helicopter was seen circling the Guelph area. Police sources told CTV News they are looking for the child's body.
Renton did not divulge many details about the developments in the investigation, saying the matter is before the courts. He would not comment on questions at the news conference regarding possible motives behind the abduction.
However, he confirmed the identities of the two suspects:
- Michael Thomas C.S. Rafferty, 28, has been charged with kidnapping and first-degree murder.
- Terri-Lynne McClintic, 18, is charged with kidnapping and being an accessory after the fact.
They appeared in court Wednesday morning and were both remanded in custody until May 28.
Renton said he doesn't anticipate making any further arrests.
Witnesses say Rafferty was crying during his court appearance. Victoria's uncle appeared to approach the suspect after his court appearance but police quickly separated the two men.
Victoria went missing on April 8 and was last seen walking away from her school with an unidentified woman.
A surveillance camera in the area caught the woman and child walking together. Investigators have previously released a composite sketch of a suspect but despite a number of tips from the public, have failed to locate any trace of the child.
Renton said that the surveillance video was "one piece of evidence that has brought us to where we are."
The female suspect, who was arrested first on an outstanding warrant, is said to be helping police locate the body.
Renton said McClintic and Victoria's mother Tara McDonald "are familiar" with each other. However, he would not say if the suspect ever met Victoria.
Although the suspects know Victoria's parents, police don't believe they knew who their daughter was at the time she was kidnapped, sources say.
A friend of Rafferty told ctvtoronto.ca she hadn't seen or spoken to the suspect for awhile -- but she confirmed that the man lived in Guelph as recently as 2006.
The woman, who did not want to be identified, said Rafferty last updated his Facebook page on April 8, the day Victoria went missing.
"At 10:01 a.m. he wrote 'Everything good is coming my way'," she said.
The suspect, who grew up in Richmond Hill, Ont. and attended George Brown's culinary arts program in Toronto, does not list anyone with the last name of Stafford or McClintic on his Facebook friends list.
Craig Racini, whose girlfriend lives next door to the female suspect in Woodstock, said his suspicions were raised after he saw the surveillance video.
He said two women moved next door about two months ago and that one of the women recently cut her hair short. Racini said that when he asked her why, she said it was because she got bubblegum stuck in her hair.
Racini said "no comment" when he was asked if he called in the tip to police.
He said he doesn't know a lot about his neighbours but said that he doesn't believe a man lives in the house.
He wouldn't say exactly what made him suspicious but said that there were "little clues they were giving."
A woman who lives on Tennyson Street, a few homes away from where Rafferty was arrested, says her son had a scary encounter on the street about two weeks before Victoria went missing.
Her 10-year-old son told her then that he was approached by two people in a car but ran away before anyone spoke to him.
She said the incident made her pay close attention to Victoria's case and that she and several other people living on Tennyson had posted pictures of Victoria in the front windows of their home and on the sides of their cars.
Victoria's father Rodney Stafford told CTV Toronto he is "devastasted" but he is not going to believe any rumours he hears until he hears it straight from the police.
"I don't know where to go from here," he said. "I'm waiting to hear from the police. There's lots of stuff out there and I can't believe any of it until it comes directly from police."
Friends and family of the missing child are also said to be gathering at the home of Tara McDonald, the girl's mother.
Renton said police notified Victoria's parents Tuesday night about the development.
"Investigators never get used to convey messages like this to loved ones," he told reporters. "We all wanted (her) home safe and sound."
Victoria's aunt Rebecca Stafford said Wednesday on a Facebook group dedicated to finding her niece that she is closing down a portion of the online social networking site to help stop the spread of rumours.
"As we've all heard, there has been police progress in this investigation. Since we are not sure of what is happening, out of respect for my family, I have closed down the wall temporarily," she wrote. "The rumour mill has already been put into overdrive this morning and we are anxiously awaiting the answers to the same questions you are asking.
"Thank you for understanding my desire to protect my family from further uncertainty," she added. "Thank you for all your support during these very trying times."
Police said they were saddened by the news, and were hoping for a happy conclusion to the case.
In the 42 days since Victoria has gone missing, police received thousands of tips and leads, said Oxford Community Police Chief Ron Fraser.
He defended the Oxford police, who headed the case before the OPP took over, saying that officers made the case a priority from the very beginning.
Oxford police have been criticized for not issuing an amber alert and calling the investigation a "missing person's case" as opposed to an abduction. But Fraser said police acted quickly and notified the public almost immediately.
Fraser called the police investigation "exhaustive" but said there are still many questions.
"We're left with hundreds of questions that will hopefully be answered in a court of law," he said at the news conference.
He said that Victoria's legacy is now a cautionary tale to parents everywhere.
"Because of Victoria Stafford, every child in this city and across the country will be a little safer because of the heightened awareness to protect our children," he said.