Tori Stafford's dad calls it 'hard' seeing accused killer
The Canadian Press
Published Monday, February 7, 2011 2:50PM EST
WOODSTOCK, Ont. - Tori Stafford's father says it was difficult clapping eyes on one of the girl's accused killers for the first time.
But Rodney Stafford adds there is little point in making a scene.
Instead, Stafford sat quietly today in a Woodstock, Ont., court, several rows behind Michael Rafferty, who faces a first-degree murder charge in the abduction and death of the Grade 3 student.
Tori was abducted as she left her school on April 8, 2009. Rafferty, 30, and Terri-Lynne McClintic, 20, were charged more than one month later. Tori's remains were found in a field more than 100 kilometres north of Woodstock.
Being in court with his daughter's accused killed was "really hard," Stafford said Monday.
"There's four rows of people stopping me from wanting to get to the front of the courtroom but I just can't ... (you've) got to be smart about things."
Rafferty, dressed in a dark grey suit and tie, and cleanly shaven with neatly cropped hair, was in court for a pre-trial motion. He watched the proceedings impassively from the prisoner's dock surrounded by Plexiglas.
Details of the motion cannot yet be released due to a sweeping publication ban on the proceedings before Ontario Superior Court Justice Thomas Heeney.
Stafford, 35, said he was managing the emotional toll of the case with the support of family and friends but said it was difficult waiting for the wheels of justice to finish turning.
"It's almost two years into it now and it's looking like it's not going to start until next year," he said.
"It's dragged out. I don't know how other families have done it. It's hard."
McClintic pleaded guilty last April, and was sentenced to life in prison.
Her plea was only made public in December after a Supreme Court of Canada decision partially lifted a veil of secrecy imposed on her case.
Despite media complaints, part of that publication ban remains in effect to preserve Rafferty's constitutional right to a fair trial.
"I just want to move on in life," he said.
"We can't bring our little girl home but we've got to move on with our own lives."
Stafford said he understood that prosecutors have to "go by the book," but said the pre-trial machinations were sometimes hard to swallow.
He said he just wanted the case decided.
"It sucks. It really sucks," he said. "It's hard for me to not voice my opinion sitting in there."
Tori's mother, Tara McDonald, and several other relatives also were on hand to see the accused in person, who has made other appearances by video link.