NEWS

Michael Rafferty Trial: Tori Stafford Father, Rodney Stafford, To Be There For 'Every Word' Of Accused Killer's Trial

01/16/2012 04:19 EST | Updated 03/17/2012 05:12 EDT
CP
LONDON, Ont. - The father of a slain eight-year-old girl says he hopes to be in court for ''every word'' of her accused killer's case, which got underway Monday with pre-trial motions.

Outside Ontario Superior Court, Rodney Stafford said his family is feeling "a lot of hostility, a lot of hate" toward Michael Rafferty.

Rafferty, 30, is accused in the death of Tori Stafford of Woodstock, Ont., who disappeared on her way home from school in April 2009. Her body was found months later.

"It's hard to explain," said Stafford.

"On a daily basis, you're seeing pictures of Victoria, you're talking about her on a daily basis — you can't help but not let her go."

The trial was moved from nearby Woodstock to London in light of the extensive publicity surrounding Tori's death.

"It's really hard, because you want to say so much but the trial hasn't started and he only stands accused, and you've got to go with the evidence," Stafford said.

"I want to see justice for everybody when it comes to Victoria."

Stafford, who was with his girlfriend, mother and brother, said he would do what he could to be in court every day if possible, but that it would put a strain on his family life and his pocket book.

The pre-trial motions, which are expected to take as long as four weeks, are covered by an extensive publication ban.

Justice Thomas Heeney said the ban, which applies to submissions, motions or even the kind of motions, would remain in place even though a jury has yet to be selected.

Addressing the media and public in the court, Heeney said only the fact that pre-trial motions were underway could be reported.

"That is it," Heeney said.

"All publication of any kind is banned."

Earlier, defence lawyer Dirk Derstine said outside court that his client was "anxious" to have the proceedings underway.

Rafferty's co-accused, Terri-Lynne McClintic, has already been convicted of first-degree murder in Tori's death in a case that traumatized her southwestern Ontario community.

McClintic's guilty plea was also subject to a temporary ban — one that kept news of the plea and her life sentence from the public for some seven months.

The ban raised hackles across the country when it was imposed, with front-page newspaper editorials lambasting it as going too far.

Cathy Gaudio, whose nephew was Tori's stepbrother, said she was in court Monday to "show support" for the family and her relative.

"He was just so forlorn looking," she said of the boy's reaction to Tori's disappearance.

"I just hope no one murdered my sister," Gaudio cited him as saying.